President Trump and his advisers, seeking to contain the escalating Russia crisis that threatens to consume his presidency, are considering a retooling of his senior staff and the creation of a “war room” within the White House, according to several aides and outside Trump allies.
Following Trump’s return to Washington on Saturday night from a nine-day foreign trip that provided a respite from the controversy back home, the White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates — including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser — and Russia.
White House officials also are trying to find ways to revive Trump’s stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.
That includes proposals for more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters, as well as changes in the pace and nature of news briefings, probably including a diminished role for embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Although much remained fluid Saturday, the beefed-up operation could include the return of some of Trump’s more combative campaign aides, including Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as campaign manager nearly a year ago, and David N. Bossie, who was deputy campaign manager and made his name in politics by investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton for two decades. Both men have been part of ongoing discussions about how to build a war room that have been led in part by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
Other Trump players who have drifted from his orbit in recent months, such as Sam Nunberg, are also being courted to play more active roles, either officially joining the White House or in an outside capacity, working through confidants of the president.
“Go to the mattresses,” a line from the film “The Godfather” about turning to tough mercenaries during troubled times, has circulated among Trump’s friends, said two people close to the war room discussions.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, has been involved in related talks, including with prominent Trump backers outside Washington and on Capitol Hill, and has contacted people from Trump’s campaign network, asking them to be more involved in supporting the president, said three GOP consultants working with the White House.
Meanwhile, White House counsel Donald McGahn is considering expanding his office, and an outside legal team led by Marc E. Kasowitz is preparing to meet with Trump and guide him, including on whether he should continue to comment on the Russia investigations on Twitter.
Kushner has played an active role in the effort to rethink and rearrange the communications team, improve the White House’s surrogate operation, and develop an internal group to respond to the influx of negative stories and revelations over the FBI’s Russia inquiry, said a person with knowledge of the coming changes.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, John Wagner, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker