White House left feeling rudderless as Trump hangs back in crisis

President Donald Trump has cast himself as a master brander and dealmaker, but rarely talks much about his crisis management style.

The past week has, however, put that style on clear display.

The White House was slow to immediately respond to the Parkland school shooting in any expansive way in the first several hours, waiting until overnight to make any formal statements beyond telling reporters the president was “aware” and monitoring the situation.

The hesitance followed a week in which the president did nothing to calm the furor surrounding the revelation that a former top aide was allowed to keep working in the West Wing and handling sensitive information without a full security clearance because of his past domestic abuse, a scandal that has cast doubt on the tenure of Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly.

In both cases, the president seemed to hang back behind staff decisions rather than Continue reading “White House left feeling rudderless as Trump hangs back in crisis”

The mysterious oppo researcher working in the White House lawyer’s office

Few people in or close to the White House have any idea what Michael Roman does all day.

Officially, Roman works as a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research, a vague title that reveals almost nothing. He earns $115,000 a year for this work, according to White House salary records, and keeps an office inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

He reports to White House counsel Don McGahn, who represented the conservative Koch network as a lawyer during the period when Roman was working for the Kochs’ Freedom Partners group as head of research—a $269,000-a-year job that involved tracking the activities of Democratic political organizers and donors.

Roman, whose 25-person intelligence-gathering unit was officially disbanded by the Kochs in 2016, was hired by Donald Trump’s campaign to oversee poll-watching in the final weeks before the election and was among a handful of unannounced Continue reading “The mysterious oppo researcher working in the White House lawyer’s office”

White House releases State of the Union excerpts

In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump will emphasize that his administration is “building a safe, strong, and proud America,” according to excerpts released Tuesday by the White House.

Among the accomplishments Trump is expected to highlight: passing the “biggest tax cuts” in American history; eliminating regulations; ending the so-called “war on coal”; and defeating ISIS.

Going forward, the White House hopes to work with a broader array of individuals on the Trump agenda, the excerpts say. “So tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed,” Trump will say.

5 things to watch at Trump’s first State of the Union

State of Union speeches give presidents the chance to make their best case for the year ahead – and that pressure is particularly acute for President Donald Trump as he tries to help his party keep control of both chambers of Congress in the midterms.

Trump’s demeanor on Tuesday night will matter as much – or more than – his words. His moments of composure, like last February’s joint address to Congress, have won him praise, and he’ll be looking to reassure Republican party leaders who will be gathering later this week in West Virginia to plan for the upcoming elections.

Here’s five things to watch in tonight’s speech.

1) Will Trump stay on script?

At last year’s speech, Trump won praise for sticking to the teleprompter. While he’s whiplashed America since then with his combative Twitter persona and reports of his blowups and “shithole” remarks on immigration at West Continue reading “5 things to watch at Trump’s first State of the Union”

Trump sets his Cabinet free to shape an agenda

President Donald Trump’s administration is now embroiled in an all-consuming fight with the Hill over immigration, and there’s no guarantee that its push for an infrastructure plan will go anywhere — but a robust agenda that covers everything from entitlements to oil exploration is bubbling up from below.

While the Obama administration infamously micromanaged policy from the West Wing, the Trump White House has given Cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs almost total freedom to do what they want, according to two close advisers to the White House.

Since the start of the year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has quietly opened the door to sharply limiting Medicaid; DHS has revoked a special immigration status for Salvadorans; and the Department of Interior has moved to open up federal land to offshore drilling.

“When you have knowledgeable and experienced people who know what they want to do, and are given Continue reading “Trump sets his Cabinet free to shape an agenda”

How Trump’s quiet weekend helped end the shutdown

The shutdown drama taught White House aides a lesson: when it comes to President Donald Trump, sometimes less is more.

For about 48 hours this weekend, Trump kept an unusually low profile, making no public appearances and keeping his direct contact with lawmakers – especially Democrats – to a minimum. Instead, the president left the heavy lifting to his staff, temporarily suppressing his instinct to invite lawmakers to the White House to strike a grand bargain.

The hands-off strategy emerged after Trump met with top White House aides on Friday night. Frustrated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had been invited in for what wound up being an unproductive meeting earlier in the day, Trump and his team decided to call Democrats’ bluff, issuing a statement at 11:58 p.m. declaring that the president “will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage Continue reading “How Trump’s quiet weekend helped end the shutdown”

Trump builds his 2018 political message by rebranding Obama’s economic legacy

The White House hopes to boost President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings by using the economy as a centerpiece of its political message in 2018, according to three White House officials, even if many of the president’s successes so far are squarely built on the legacy of former President Barack Obama.

The trends of declining unemployment, coupled with healthy gains in the stock market, began during Obama’s first term, a welcome uptick following the global economic downturn Obama inherited in 2009.

The Trump administration has built on those gains, particularly in recent months. Business confidence has soared on the expectation of sweeping tax cuts as well as the administration’s push to roll back regulations on everything from energy to housing to health care to labor rules.

But hard economic data on growth, job creation and wages look very similar to the last several years under Obama. The pace of job Continue reading “Trump builds his 2018 political message by rebranding Obama’s economic legacy”