In the wake of news that former FBI Director James Comey will testify publicly before Congress, White House aides have acknowledged that there’s a new way of conducting politics these days, and they need to figure it out.
To that end, senior advisers are examining the Democratic administration of former President Bill Clinton to see how they pushed through bipartisan budgets and reform bills all the while dealing with an independent counsel’s probe for five out the eight years he was in office.
Trump’s copious use of Twitter has been problematic, so a few weeks ago aides reportedly organized an “intervention” of sorts. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which persists in using unnamed sources, Trump was warned by his advisers that some comments made on Twitter might “paint him into a corner,” politically and legally.
Both President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly denied that there was any “collusion” with the Russians during the 2016 election.
Former campaign associates, including David Bossie, Anthony Scaramucci, Corey Lewandowski and Jason Miller have reportedly been seen at the White House this week, sparking rumors of an impending staff shake-up.
Quoting someone who claims to be “close to the White House,” the Journal report said that the president has been “moody” and predicted no major staff changes in the near future. Trump is currently out of the country for nine days.
Talking points released by the Justice Department on Friday revealed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told lawmakers that he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked about Trump wanting to replacing Comey during the presidential transition period. They both reportedly agreed it was the best course of action once Rosenstein received Senate approval, which he did in April.
Then, on May 8, Rosenstein produced the three-page memo outlining his criticisms of Comey’s performance, and Trump fired Comey the next day, citing the memo. Details of why Comey was fired became conflicted over the next few days until Trump said in a television interview that he fired Comey because he was a “showboat” and acknowledged that the Russia probe did influence his decision.
Wednesday, Rosenstein announced that he had appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe.
In studying Clinton’s administration, Trump’s aides researched how a probe that began about an Arkansas land deal eventually led to impeachable charges that he had lied to investigators about having had an affair with an intern. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton, but he was not convicted by the Senate. Keeping all that in mind, they have recommended that Trump “cite the continuing investigation, then pivot to the economy, health care and taxes.”
Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan, recalled that he used to advise Reagan not to respond to reporters’ questions about the Iran-Contra scandal in the last few years of his presidency. “You can’t go off on a tangent. You can’t answer the sound bite gotcha questions,” he explained.
He went on to advise that Trump not “take the bait of a shouted question or the shiny silver dollar of being able to tweet. Because then the rest of the agenda gets left on the cutting-room floor.”
Trump’s handling of a news conference Thursday showed that the president may be taking such advice to heart. Standing next to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, he talked about Comey’s unpopularity, called the Russia probe “a witch hunt” and said that the accusations being leveled against him are “totally ridiculous.”
That said, Trump’s comments suddenly took a new direction. “We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including health care,” he said.
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