How the White House is trying to manage an Oval Office in crisis
The White House crisis management plan, Jared Kushner’s standing with the boss and new congressional wrinkles in the Russia investigation — they’re all a part of our Inside Politics forecast.
1) Kushner manages own crisis
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump headed home early from President Donald Trump’s international trip, and the official line was that Kushner had worked on the first three stops and wasn’t an integral player as the agenda moved on.
But CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, fresh back from covering the trip, said Kushner was aware of a coming Washington Post report detailing his role in the Russia election meddling investigation and decided it was best not to be at the President’s side on the world stage when that news broke.
Now, Kushner’s work on White House crisis management includes his own problems.
“This is all settling into the West Wing. He’s not specifically the target of the investigation, but he is front and center in the middle of it now,” explains Zeleny.
“This creates an opening, a power-center shift for Steve Bannon to have much more power. The aides say Jared Kushner is going to remain, keep his head down, but this raises more questions about him.”
2) All in the family: Kushner has an in with the boss, but it may have limits
Jared Kushner’s role as his father-in-law’s right hand man has been one of the fascinating subplots of the Trump presidency. That’s doubly true now because of questions about his dealings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and a banker close to Vladmir Putin.
He’s family to a president who often talks about how much he treasures loyalty.
But Michael Warren of The Weekly Standard said his White House sources make it clear that while Kushner is on solid ground with the boss, and likely has more leeway than most, there are always limits.
“I’ve heard from senior White House sources that Trump himself has told Jared Kushner, ‘Look, people like you, young, wealthy, New York liberal Democrats, are not the reason I’m in the White House,’ Warren reports. “Now, despite that, he brought Jared Kushner into the White House because of his loyalty, because his usefulness within the White House. Now, if Jared Kushner becomes unuseful to the President, you might see a shift.”
3) Team Trump wants the RNC to do more to help with Russia crisis
Watch for help-wanted ads aimed at the Republican National Committee.
The Trump White House is frustrated with the Russia election meddling investigation — and the president himself has complained to friends he doesn’t have a coordinated response to the seemingly daily disclosures.
So Trump allies are pressing the Republican National Committee to do more to help, a message delivered in person in recent days by presidential sons Donald Jr. and Eric.
Abby Philip of The Washington Post said one problem is that the committee is already short-staffed because many of its employees had already taken administration jobs.
“They need research help, rapid response help … I’m told they’re coordinating with the RNC right now, trying to get that situation rectified so as they go forward, in addition to some of the war room efforts, they’re considering creating within the structure of the White House,” Phillips reports.
4) More power to the chairmen — as Congress tries to sort its evolving Russia role
The appointment of a new special counsel to lead the Russia election meddling investigation is creating a fair amount of confusion about how Congress should proceed with its investigations.
Some members think Congress will have to pull back so as not to interfere with the special counsel’s work. Others want a “full speed ahead” approach, so long as there is coordination with the special counsel.
Amid this confusion, Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post said members of the Senate Intelligence Committee decided to give their chairman and vice chairman broad powers to subpoena witnesses and documents.
“The authority now for the two leaders means they can require and compel legally more information from other people, and you’re starting to see that even though there was a sense of, ‘Oh, we have time; we’re trying to do this right’ just a few weeks ago, as everything else kicks into high gear, you’re going to see some kicking into high gear on Capitol Hill, too.”
5) Trump’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’
President Trump canceled plans for a campaign-style rally this week in Iowa, but keep an eye on next week: Several sources tell CNN the White House is making plans for a roadshow to highlight the President’s infrastructure ideas.
One tentative stop is Cincinnati, the source said, and others are being debated as the White House looks to draw attention to decaying roads and bridges.
“Unhelpful,” was the one-word reaction of a senior GOP congressional aide.
Not that infrastructure isn’t on the GOP wish list. But it ranks lower than health care and tax reform, and a constant complaint from Capitol Hill Republicans is that they often view the White House political strategy as scattershot and counterproductive.