President Trump and his top advisers are reportedly considering creating a White House “war room” and a staff shake-up to combat current and future revelations related to the Russia controversy, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
The primary goal of the “war room” will be to more aggressively fire back at fallout in the wake of Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey on May 9.
Following Comey’s firing, the White House was besieged by a slew of negative news stories that raised further questions about the president’s and his associates’ ties to Russia.
That included Trump’s statement that “this Russia thing” had been a factor in his decision to fire Comey, who was spearheading the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign; reports that Trump shared highly-classified intelligence with Russian officials; and reports that Trump asked Comey to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn back in Feburary.
Recently, it emerged that Trump reportedly asked top intelligence officials to publicly push back against the Russia probe, and that senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss the creation of a secret “backchannel” between the US and Russia through Russian facilities in an attempt to bypass US surveillance.
The proposed war room, Axios reported, will be filled with “experienced veterans from the campaign trail who recognize the gravity of the situation.”
In an apparent acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation, Trump staffers have reportedly begun using the phrase, “Go to the mattresses,” a line from “The Godfather,” meaning to go to or prepare for war.
The White House could turn to figures like former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, for help in the “war room,” the Post noted. Lewandowski was fired last year after a series of campaign trail blunders, and Bossie is known for his 20-year-long investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton.
White House chief strategist and former Breitbart leader Steve Bannon is reportedly spearheading the “war room” effort.
The White House also may be considering a shake-up of its communications strategy and staff, the Post reported.
That includes introducing more rallies across the country so that Trump can speak directly with voters.
“The conventional ways of communicating are not working for them,” one adviser told the Post. “They have to get the campaign brand back” and be able to communicate with an audience instead of having the report on it, the adviser added.
Aides have also floated possible changes to the daily press briefing and a downsized role for press secretary Sean Spicer. Some have discussed the option of having Spicer take on a more discreet and behind-the-scenes role following a series of press briefings that were widely-panned.
If Spicer is demoted, he will likely be replaced by deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who took over Spicer’s role in a number of press briefings as revelations continued to emerge in the Trump-Russia story.
Kushner, the Post noted, has advocated a proposal to have more Trump surrogates speak out on his behalf and to create a group within the White House whose goal is to push back against continuing Trump-Russia revelations.
“The bottom line is they need fresh legs; they need more legs,” Barry Bennett, a Trump campaign political adviser, told the Post. “They’re in full-scale war, and they’re thinly staffed.”
Read the full Washington Post story here.
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