Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms

Top aides to President Donald Trump are planning additional crackdowns on immigration before the November midterms, despite a growing backlash over the administration’s move to separate migrant children from parents at the border.

Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and a team of officials from the Justice Department, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget have been quietly meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and under-the-radar rule changes to strengthen hard-line U.S. immigration policies, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House.

The goal for Miller and his team is to arm Trump with enough data and statistics by early September to show voters that he fulfilled his immigration promises — even without a physical border wall or any other congressional measure, said one Republican close to the Continue reading “Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms”

Slow-moving White House communications shakeup sinks morale

President Donald Trump has always been happy to act as his own chief spokesman, and amid the ongoing shakeup of the White House communications office, staffers seem increasingly happy to let him.

Only one of the top five senior press and communications staffers, Raj Shah, was in the office on Friday afternoon, hours after the president decided to emerge from his post-Singapore sequester for an impromptu 20-minute gaggle on the White House lawn.

Inside the two areas of the White House where reporters can freely roam, almost no one was available to comment as Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was ordered into jail custody while awaiting trial on fraud charges, or as House Republicans scrambled to hold together an immigration deal on the Hill.

At one point, two young staffers huddled in the office of absent deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, with one styling the others’ hair. An hour Continue reading “Slow-moving White House communications shakeup sinks morale”

Top White House staffer Marc Short tells colleagues he’s leaving

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told his colleagues Friday that he’s resigning, according to current and former administration officials.

He is expected to leave the White House in mid-July, but it was unclear whether he has accepted a new position. Short, the top White House liaison to Capitol Hill, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Chief of staff John Kelly has spoken to the deputy director of the National Economic Council, Shahira Knight, about potentially taking over Short’s job, said one former administration official. Knight is also slated to leave the White House in the coming weeks to take a position at The Clearing House, a banking policy and lobbying group. Knight was instrumental in developing the policy underpinnings as well as selling Republican lawmakers on the major tax bill last fall.

Officials inside the White House and close advisers did not think any internal candidates Continue reading “Top White House staffer Marc Short tells colleagues he’s leaving”

Trump said to push for tariff action on foreign cars ahead of midterms

President Donald Trump wants his staff to push forward with plans to slap 25 percent tariffs on foreign cars before the midterm elections in a bid to score points with his political base, according to administration and auto industry officials.

The president believes a promise to tax cars, trucks and auto parts coming from U.S. competitors like Europe and Japan would allow him to present a concrete win to workers, the officials said.

“Trump sees the auto tariffs as part of his midterm strategy, a way to position Republicans and the White House as pro-worker,” said one senior administration official. “He views it as part of the broader story about to helping to revitalize the American-based economy.”

Raising the price of foreign cars would be the latest in a series of aggressive trade moves by Trump, who is betting that his supporters will be more focused on the Continue reading “Trump said to push for tariff action on foreign cars ahead of midterms”

Trump pledges to end ‘war games’ on Korean Peninsula

President Donald Trump on Tuesday offered a few specifics about his agreement with North Korea, saying during a Singapore press conference that the country is planning to destroy a major missile engine testing site while the U.S. has agreed to stop running military exercises in neighboring South Korea.

Trump also expressed a desire to eventually remove the thousands of American troops stationed on the Korean peninsula, while noting "that’s not part of the equation right now."

The remarks came several hours after Trump and Kim held a ceremony to sign a joint statement produced out of a round of historic meetings Tuesday.

In the document, Kim committed to "complete denuclearization" while Trump pledged "to provide security guarantees" for North Korea.

Critics were quick to point out that the four-point agreement, in its current form, was light on details on ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons — with Continue reading “Trump pledges to end ‘war games’ on Korean Peninsula”

Kudlow suffers heart attack, Trump says

Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, has had a heart attack, President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday night.

“Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack,” Trump tweeted from Singapore shortly before he met Kim Jong, the North Korean leader. “He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.”

Kudlow has been working furiously behind the scenes since he joined the administration as director of the National Economic Council this spring, to hammer out trade deals with China and to save NAFTA from collapsing — all while trying to convince investors that the president was not launching a trade war anytime soon.

Just last week Kudlow traveled to the G-7 summit in Canada alongside the president and other top aides, and he also recently trekked to China as part of a trade delegation. The Continue reading “Kudlow suffers heart attack, Trump says”

West Wing announces staff shuffle

The White House announced more than 25 new appointments to the executive office of the president on Wednesday – but most were job changes rather than new hires.

The announcement, for instance, formalized the role of Derek Lyons as the White House staff secretary, a role that Lyons has been playing for months following the February departure of Rob Porter. Same situation with Zachary Fuentes, the number two to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is now officially an assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff.

The Trump administration, which has seen a number of departures since the beginning of the year, has found it difficult to recruit outsiders amid ongoing West Wing turmoil and the expanding investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller.

One of the few new hires was Catherine Bellah Keller, now deputy assistant to the president and deputy White House staff secretary Continue reading “West Wing announces staff shuffle”

Shahira Knight leaving White House for Clearing House banking group

Shahira Knight, a top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, is leaving the White House to join the Clearing House, a banking policy and lobbying group.

Knight served as deputy director of the National Economic Council and played a critical role in the administration’s biggest legislative achievement, the sweeping rewrite of the tax code the president signed into law last year.

Along with former NEC Chairman Gary Cohn, Knight helped coordinate both the policy and politics of the tax bill, often shuttling between the White House and Capitol Hill, where she emerged as a favorite among Republican lawmakers.

Knight will join the Clearing House as it merges with another bank lobbying group, the Financial Services Roundtable. She will serve as executive vice president and head of public affairs. Knight will report to Greg Baer, who is currently president of the Clearing House Association and will become CEO of the newly Continue reading “Shahira Knight leaving White House for Clearing House banking group”

War inside Trump trade team triggers global angst

President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision Thursday to slap steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union capped a whipsaw week that reflected not just the deep divisions among his top economic advisers but the changeable attitudes of the irascible and unpredictable president himself.

Senior administration officials profess privately to not know exactly what Trump will ultimately decide to do on trade at any given moment. The uncertainty has led the president’s advisers to compete for his attention in a bid to sway him, leading to nasty behind-the-scenes fights that are increasingly bursting into public view.

The week began with a statement that the administration would move ahead with trade levies on China, just days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a trade war with the world’s second largest economy was “on hold.” Trump’s senior trade adviser Peter Navarro publicly rebuked Mnuchin’s statement on Wednesday, calling it Continue reading “War inside Trump trade team triggers global angst”

Ross tries to reclaim ‘killer’ status with Trump in China trade talks

Investor Wilbur Ross was brought into the administration as one of President Donald Trump’s “killers” – but in recent months, the commerce secretary has been increasingly marginalized, with his agency widely seen in the White House as a mess.

Trump himself has lashed out at Ross in Oval Office meetings, telling the man who once helped bail him out in Atlantic City that he’s “past his prime” and “no longer a killer” and trying to bench him from making trade deals, according to three people familiar with the comments. Despite being one of the administration’s leading protectionist voices early on, Ross was initially left off a May trade delegation to China led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But now Ross is heading back to China in early June in hope of cutting some type of trade deal that delivers on Trump’s campaign promises to extract concessions from Beijing on behalf Continue reading “Ross tries to reclaim ‘killer’ status with Trump in China trade talks”

Trump demands housecleaning on White House communications team

President Donald Trump has demanded changes to his communications team — long seen as one of the most internally divided offices in his White House — in an effort to crack down on the leaks that have plagued his presidency since Day One.

White House chief of staff John Kelly signed off on a plan that would flush out some of the department’s midlevel and junior aides, according to three people familiar with the situation. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other key senior officials are expected to remain, these people said.

Though changes to the structure of the White House communications office had been under consideration for months, sparked by concerns about a lack of organization in the office, the recent leak of a junior staffer’s callous remarks about Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s health served as a breaking point that moved the president to action.

Trump Continue reading “Trump demands housecleaning on White House communications team”

White House staff brace for personnel moves after leak

The leak of a White House press aide’s flippant comments about John McCain’s terminal cancer has uncorked long-simmering tensions in the communications and press offices, with staffers anticipating potential personnel changes to come as soon as Friday.

The furor over White House aide Kelly Sadler’s remarks set off jockeying within the West Wing and among former administration officials and close advisers to the White House to lay blame on others. Among officials, there’s a sense that a few staffers will pay the price, even if there’s no evidence they were involved in the Sadler leak.

In this White House, one former administration official said, media stories can become so intense and frequent that they “hit a critical mass,” turn into an echo chamber, and something must be done to stop the negative headlines and the president’s displeasure.

People could be canned, in other words, to set an example for others.

Continue reading “White House staff brace for personnel moves after leak”

White House staff brace for personnel moves after leak

The leak of a White House press aide’s flippant comments about John McCain’s terminal cancer has uncorked long-simmering tensions in the communications and press offices, with staffers anticipating potential personnel changes to come as soon as Friday.

The furor over White House aide Kelly Sadler’s remarks set off jockeying within the West Wing and among former administration officials and close advisers to the White House to lay blame on others. Among officials, there’s a sense that a few staffers will pay the price, even if there’s no evidence they were involved in the Sadler leak.

In this White House, one former administration official said, media stories can become so intense and frequent that they “hit a critical mass,” turn into an echo chamber, and something must be done to stop the negative headlines and the president’s displeasure.

People could be canned, in other words, to set an example for others.

Continue reading “White House staff brace for personnel moves after leak”

Kudlow brings kill ’em with kindness approach to White House

Larry Kudlow thinks he can steer Donald Trump’s chaotic White House away from economic disaster by being the nicest guy in the West Wing.

Unlike Gary Cohn, his hard-charging predecessor at the helm of the National Economic Council, Kudlow doesn’t yell. He doesn’t have a reputation for knifing policy opponents in the press or badmouthing them to colleagues, as do many aides in the fractious administration.

“I have opinions, which I will share with the president,” Kudlow, an avowed free-trade supporter in a mostly protectionist White House, said in an interview Friday in his office on the second floor of the West Wing. “But I don’t keep people out of meetings. It’s not my style. So, I guess you might say I’m lower-keyed. I’m quite respectful of disagreements.”

Instead, he’s trying to avoid the collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a bitter trade war with China Continue reading “Kudlow brings kill ’em with kindness approach to White House”

Trump reaches for headline glory in North Korea dealings

After disappointing European allies by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and amid the rising drumbeat of scandal surrounding his longtime personal attorney, President Donald Trump has been increasingly focused on landing positive headlines out of his diplomacy with North Korea.

But as with other major policy initiatives – from the effort to repeal Obamacare to passing tax reform or scrapping the U.S. role in major international trade deals – the president has been more focused on scoring a history-making win while leaving the details to others.

That approach has tripped Trump up in the past, ultimately costing him a crucial first victory on his top policy priority early in his term after Republican members of Congress rebelled against scrapping the Affordable Care Act and even making tax reform a tough sell.

Former national security officials say there’s danger in approaching high-wire diplomacy as a made-for-TV moment without Continue reading “Trump reaches for headline glory in North Korea dealings”

Trump’s loyal outsiders elbow Kelly out

John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was brought into the White House to impose order, but less than a year later, the story of the Trump presidency is increasingly being shaped by people who don’t answer to him.

Kelly has been unable to contain the escalating chaos coming from beyond the West Wing, leaving him marginalized by some White House staff — and by the president he serves, according to interviews with 10 administration officials, former White House and campaign aides, and Republicans close to the White House.

The chief of staff has no authority to rein in Rudy Giuliani, who intentionally contradicted the president’s statements regarding hush money payments made by Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen to porn actress Stormy Daniels. And Kelly is unable to keep Trump away from outside agitators like Corey Lewandowski or David Bossie, two former top campaign aides who traveled with the president Continue reading “Trump’s loyal outsiders elbow Kelly out”

Oppo researcher leaves White House

Michael Roman, a longtime opposition researcher who worked in the White House counsel’s office, has left the Trump administration.

Roman served as a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research. His last day was Friday, according to an email obtained by POLITICO.

Roman said in a goodbye note sent to other White House aides that he was leaving “with a heavy heart“ and that “it has been an honor to serve President Trump and the American people.”

He had been commuting between Washington and Philadelphia since the inauguration and, with his wife pregnant and his family expanding, he wanted to return to Philly full-time, said a person familiar with the situation.

Roman acted as right-hand man to the White House’s top attorney, Don McGahn, and helped vet judicial nominations, including that of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

As a former Koch operative and longtime Continue reading “Oppo researcher leaves White House”

Oppo researcher leaves White House

Michael Roman, a longtime opposition researcher who worked in the White House counsel’s office, has left the Trump administration.

Roman served as a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research. His last day was Friday, according to an email obtained by POLITICO.

Roman said in a goodbye note sent to other White House aides that he was leaving “with a heavy heart“ and that “it has been an honor to serve President Trump and the American people.”

He had been commuting between Washington and Philadelphia since the inauguration and, with his wife pregnant and his family expanding, he wanted to return to Philly full-time, said a person familiar with the situation.

Roman acted as right-hand man to the White House’s top attorney, Don McGahn, and helped vet judicial nominations, including that of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

As a former Koch operative and longtime Continue reading “Oppo researcher leaves White House”

Comey calls Trump ‘morally unfit to be president’

Former FBI Director James Comey called Donald Trump unfit to lead the nation, saying in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday night that the president is “someone for whom truth is not a high value” and who treats women “like they’re pieces of meat.”

“I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president,” Comey said, according to a transcript of the interview.

The interview marks the beginning of a weeks-long media tour for Comey’s new tell-all book called “A Higher Loyalty,” which charts his career from a prosecutor of mafia figures — whose emphasis on loyalty he says was similar to Trump’s — to his perch as FBI director until the president fired him last year.

“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important Continue reading “Comey calls Trump ‘morally unfit to be president’”

Trump risks political blowback from his base on Syria

President Donald Trump staked much of his 2016 campaign on vowing to solve problems at home instead of entangling the U.S. in conflicts abroad.

Yet as president, he’s gone the other way, deciding to launch airstrikes against Syria this weekend a second time since taking office in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own citizens.

Other presidents have promised an anti-interventionist policy only to switch course in office in the face of unexpected events, but for Trump it carries a unique political risk heading into a difficult midterm election, especially if the conflict escalates into a larger regional crisis or a confrontation with Russia or Iran.

“The president is underestimating how important his non-interventionist foreign policy was to his appeal and will regret having to now own his own Middle East boondoggle,” said one Republican close to the White House.

President George W. Bush Continue reading “Trump risks political blowback from his base on Syria”