Aides give up on trying to control Trump’s tweets

When candidate Donald Trump waged a Twitter war against Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who rebuked him from the stage of the Democratic National Convention, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were sent in for a “tough love talk” about the efficacy of the tweets, two former campaign officials recalled.

Controlling potentially damaging tweets was a job left mostly to the legal team in the early days of the administration. Former attorneys Marc Kasowitz and Jay Sekulow gave Trump one simple rule to guide his tweeting habit: don’t comment online about the Russia investigation. “The message was, tweet about policy, tweet about politics, but don’t attack the special counsel,” recalled another former aide.

None of the advice seemed to have any lasting effect on a president who views acting on his own impulses as a virtue. And these days, the staff has basically stopped Continue reading “Aides give up on trying to control Trump’s tweets”

How Mike Pompeo became the favorite to succeed Rex

President Donald Trump has turned his daily intelligence briefing — a routine that in previous administrations has been a dry, formal affair — into a free-flowing conversation during which he peppers his CIA director, former House member Mike Pompeo, with questions about everything from national security threats to the internal dynamics of Congress.

After their 10 a.m. sessions, which Pompeo conducts in person about four mornings a week, Trump often asks Pompeo to accompany him to his next meeting — whatever it is.

The CIA director’s favored status in the West Wing has made him the odds-on choice to succeed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, according to more than half a dozen administration officials and outside advisers familiar with the White House’s current plans. It’s not clear when Tillerson might leave — he has vigorously denied rumors that he plans to resign anytime soon — but Pompeo has Continue reading “How Mike Pompeo became the favorite to succeed Rex”

Clinton aides try to keep focus on Trump over special counsel threat

It’s not really about her, it’s about him.

Facing the specter of a special counsel appointment to investigate the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, former Hillary Clinton aides on Tuesday tried to keep focus on what they called a dangerous step by the Justice Department to investigate President Donald Trump’s former political foe.

And they were careful to avoid getting bogged down in the thankless task of defending Clinton personally, or even in relitigating the details of the opaque 2010 Uranium One deal that is once again under scrutiny.

“Democrats’ response needs to be broader than defending Hillary Clinton on Uranium One,” said Ron Klain, a former Clinton campaign adviser who was also the final pick to serve as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration that never was. “It needs to convey that — if Trump makes good on this threat — any person out marching with their Continue reading “Clinton aides try to keep focus on Trump over special counsel threat”

Trump’s ‘loyal lieutenant’ to testify on 2013 Russia visit

NEW YORK – When senior White House officials wanted to know what mood the president was in before a meeting, they used to look for guidance from Keith Schiller, a man with a hangdog face who sat in a small, shared office off the Oval.

When friends and advisers outside the West Wing wanted to share a news article, gossip or advice with President Donald Trump, they would be advised to “send it to Keith, he’ll get it to me.” After Trump decided to fire FBI director James Comey, it was Schiller who was tasked with hand-delivering the letter.

And when the White House kitchen staff couldn’t match the satisfaction of a quarter-pounder with cheese (no pickles, extra ketchup) and a fried apple pie, it was Schiller, bodyguard and Trump whisperer, who would head down New York Avenue to McDonald’s on a stealth fast food run.

Trump’s longtime aide Continue reading “Trump’s ‘loyal lieutenant’ to testify on 2013 Russia visit”

Kushner took unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.

Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing.

Kushner was accompanied in the region by Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Greenblatt continued from Saudi Arabia to Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Ramallah and Jerusalem, where he was on Sunday.

The Trump administration has said its strategy is to try to draw in neighboring Arab leaders to play a role in Middle East peace. “Jared has always been driven to try and solve the Israel-Palestinian dispute,” said Continue reading “Kushner took unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia”

Trump team’s response to Russia news: Focus on Clinton, leaks or anything else

The White House has been anticipating for months that special counsel Robert Mueller would eventually file criminal charges in his Russia investigation. But President Donald Trump, his lawyers and senior administration officials were all caught off guard by the news.

Two of Trump’s top lawyers were traveling out of town when the first report broke Friday night that a federal grand jury had approved the first indictment in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. One of Trump’s personal attorneys, Ty Cobb, was relaxing on his deck in South Carolina, while the entire team was still working to confirm the veracity of the CNN report over the weekend.

The lack of information, on a case that could have major ramifications for the president, left many current and former Trump advisers livid, focusing their rage on how the information leaked and on a forever target: Hillary Clinton.

“It is Continue reading “Trump team’s response to Russia news: Focus on Clinton, leaks or anything else”

Former Pence spokesman Lotter to headline GOP fundraiser

The Steve Bannons and Sean Spicers of the Trump administration aren’t the only former officials who can still draw an audience.

Vice President Mike Pence’s former press secretary, Marc Lotter, is set to headline a GOP fundraiser in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, according to a copy of the invitation reviewed by POLITICO.

Lotter, a longtime Pence hand who traveled from the Indiana statehouse to the campaign trail to the White House with his boss, left the administration in September and now serves as an outside surrogate.

He may not be a household name outside of the Old Executive Office Building, where he used to work. But he’s billed as a headliner at a dinner fundraiser on Oct. 26 to raise money for the Erie County Legislature Majority Caucus.

Tickets to the event cost $100 per person, according to the invite. Members of the group consider themselves “big supporters Continue reading “Former Pence spokesman Lotter to headline GOP fundraiser”