President says White House ‘is running very smoothly’ despite staffing shake-ups
President Trump asserted on Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is in complete disarray and a “disgrace to our Nation,” while adding that his White House is operating smoothly as news emerges of high level shake-ups.
In a series of tweets early Thursday, the president said “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess.”
“They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t…care how many lives the ruin.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Trump came to these conclusions about the Mueller probe’s inner workings. The White House and Mr. Trump’s outside counsel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
.. Mr. Trump also described officials with the special counsel’s team as “Angry People” and described Mr. Mueller himself as “highly conflicted,” saying that he served under President Obama’s administration for eight years.
.. Mr. Trump and his lawyers are in the process of developing responses to written questions provided by Mr. Mueller’s investigators on the subject of collusion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The lawyers are expected to submit the responses by the end of the week.
After those questions are submitted, the president’s legal team has said it will discuss with the special counsel whether he still wants a sit-down interview with Mr. Trump. “I’d have to say…the lawyers are against it,” Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, said in an interview last week.
.. “The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world,” he said. “But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!”
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump removed his deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, moving to quickly resolve an unusual feud pitting first lady Melania Trump against her husband’s National Security Council.
Ms. Ricardel lost Mrs. Trump’s support after a dispute involving the first lady’s trip to Africa last month, according to current and former administration officials. Aides to the two women clashed over whether the first lady’s plane would have seats for National Security Council staff, and relations deteriorated after that, these people said.
Advisers to the president described turbulence inside the White House in recent days, with aides jockeying for new positions left by officials who are departing or expected to depart.
Ms. Ricardel’s abrupt departure came amid a broader shake-up that could see the exit of chief of staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
.. The Los Angeles Times had a story on Mr. Trump’s reaction to Mr. Kelly’s efforts at imposing order on the White House: “The president by many accounts has bristled at the restrictions.” The article quotes allies of the president describing him as “increasingly unwilling to be managed, even just a little.” A person close to the White House claimed Messrs. Kelly and Trump had recently engaged in “shouting matches.” In the Washington Post, Anne Gearan described the president as “livid” this summer when discussing options for the Iran nuclear deal with advisers. He was “incensed” by the arguments of Mr. Tillerson and others... An adviser said of Trump, “He’s lost a step... former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned the president the great risk to his presidency isn’t impeachment but the 25th Amendment, under which the cabinet can vote to remove a president temporarily for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
.. If you work in the White House or the administration and see what Mr. Corker sees, and what unnamed sources say they see, this is the time to speak on the record, and take the credit or the blows.
I was tempted to say this was a paradox. But it’s too straightforward for paradox. The key truth of Trumpism is that for all the purported hatred of “the media”, the main Trumpers are almost all fundamentally media creatures. They think in media terms. They are media creations.
Trump himself is a self-creation of the 80s and 90s New York City tabloid culture. His comeback in the early part of this century was driven more than most people understand by the success of The Apprentice. Why else do you think people in the Philippines or Kazakhstan paid millions to license Trump’s name? It was the brand driver of the licensing empire which allowed Trump to become the 45th President.
Steve Bannon was a publisher. Before that he was a movie producer. Jared Kushner bought a newspaper and used it to fight his battles in the press. On down the list they are all media people. They don’t hate the media. Indeed, they can only understand most battles in media terms.
.. Shouting and messaging and attacks are the only language they really understand. What they hate is that they feel like they’re losing on the terrain they believe is the only one that really matters.
.. We’ve seen the comical and now perennial pattern in which you’ll read an article which describes a White House brought to its knees by some crisis almost entirely of the President’s making. The answer? Time to fire Reince Priebus. There’s a similar story with Sean Spicer.
.. Throughout, there is this abiding belief that enough assertion and aggression can change anything.
.. If the reporting we see is close to reliable, Jared Kushner is in profound legal jeopardy. He must be scared and scarred by the time he spent in federal prisons visiting his father during his father’s incarceration. But the lesson Kushner apparently learned from this searing experience was to attack always and always harder.
.. This is fascinatingly similar to what triggered Kushner’s father’s final downfall. Charles Kushner was the subject of a tax and campaign finance probe when he pulled a breathtakingly wild attempt to obstruct that investigation by hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and videotape their sex.
.. Kushner wanted them to complain about chyrons on cable news, call reporters to update stories with White House statements, and unleash surrogates immediately. He was angry that there were no talking points offered to surrogates, the source said. One senior administration official suggested that two aides from the communications shop be dedicated just to updating chyrons.
“Jared didn’t like the idea, he wanted people to get aggressive,” said an outside adviser who was briefed on the meeting. “Jared’s the guy who is rushing the front lines and other people are saying, ‘see, wait, hold, and let’s get a battle strategy.’”
.. the belief that yelling and attacking harder can change broad-ranging criminal probes or the equally implausible belief that the Trump White House’s problem has been insufficiently aggressive attacks against those it perceives as enemies. Almost every problem the Trump White House has had, at least the President and in most cases his top advisors have seen it as a failure out of the communications office to sell the administration’s story.
.. It’s a media event, a media campaign – run for most of the campaign by the candidate more or less on his own, a man with long experience and an intuitive sense of marketing and message. Think about it. Trump seems to spend the better part of his time in the White House watching cable news. It’s not just an obsession with his enemies. It’s who he is, just the way policy people read policies papers. It’s the one language he understands and the only one he thinks – and most of his top advisors think – matters.