Trumps advisers are planning to establish a war room to combat mounting questions about communication between Russia and his presidential campaign before and after Novembers presidential election, while bringing new aides into the White House, administration officials and persons close to Trump told Reuters.
Upon Trumps return, the administration will add experienced political professionals, including Trumps former campaign manager, and possibly more lawyers to handle the Russia probe, which has gained new urgency since the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to head the investigation, the sources said.
A person in regular touch with the White House said it needed a different structure to focus on the new reality that there would be continued leaks to the media from the law enforcement and intelligence communities, leaks that have increased in frequency since Trump fired former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey on May 9.
The White House declined to comment on plans for a war room but said Trump will be looking to expand on momentum it believes it has built up during the presidents trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. A White House official confirmed plans to hold more rallies.
The president has had an incredibly successful trip overseas and the White House looks forward to continuing an aggressive messaging strategy to highlight his agenda when we return to D.C., said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, will be involved in the new strategic messaging operation, as will Steve Bannon, another top adviser who specializes in managing Trumps populist appeal and shaping his political image, the sources said. Bannon and Trumps chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have been laying the groundwork for the plan this week, they added.
Corey Lewandowski, Trumps former campaign manager, is also expected to be part of the effort. Lewandowski, who has been seen in the White House recently, could join the administration as early as next week, a source close to him said.
This month, the Justice Department named Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, as an independent special counsel in the probe.
Trump has been frustrated of late that his communications team hasnt done a more effective job at making the case that he isnt implicated in the Russia probe and highlighting his administrations successes, sources close to the president said.
Another Republican close to the White House said the new team is taking a page out of former President Bill Clintons playbook. When Clinton faced impeachment in the late 1990s, he assembled a crisis-management operation that dealt with fallout from his affair with Monica Lewinsky while allowing the rest of the White House to deal with day-to-day policy matters.
Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a Trump friend, said he expects the president will travel more when he returns from overseas and encouraged the White House to focus on issues that pump up his base voters.
Trump has scheduled a political rally for next week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The White House said other similar events are in the planning stages.
What we really want to be able to do is tend to our business, Mike Rounds, a Republican Senator from South Dakota, told Reuters. Weve got a healthcare bill were working on. Weve got tax reform that we think is important.
He talks when he shouldnt, he said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Richard Cowan and James Oliphant. Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by James Oliphant; editing by Jason Szep and James Dalgleish)