Trump eyes White House overhaul, outside lawyers, and PR team

Above, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One across the South Lawn to White House in Washington, Saturday, as they return from Sigonella, Italy. Right, Stephen Miller, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, left, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster walk from Marine One across the South Lawn with the Trumps. (AP photos)

By JILL COLVIN and KEN THOMAS

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by what he views as his team’s inability to contain the burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Expanding teams of lawyers and experienced public relations hands are being recruited to deal with the drumbeat of new revelations about Moscow’s interference and possible improper dealings with the Trump campaign and associates. The disclosures dogged the president during his first trip abroad since taking office and threaten to overwhelm and stall the agenda for his young administration.

As he mulls outside reinforcements to his operation, Trump returned late Saturday from his nine-day journey to a White House seemingly in crisis mode, with a barrage of reports hitting close to the Oval Office and involving Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and influential adviser.

A rally planned Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to “an unforeseen change” in Trump’s schedule.

After maintaining a limited social media presence throughout his trip, Trump on Sunday unleashed a furious flurry of tweets, lashing out at what he called the “fake news” media. He focused heavily on leaks — both those coming out of the White House and an intelligence leak blamed on Americans about this week’s deadly bombing at a concert in England.

On the bombing investigation Trump said: “British Prime Minister May was very angry that the info the U.K. gave to U.S. about Manchester was leaked. Gave me full details!”

Trump also said that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies.” He added that it is “very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”

Even when authorized, however, top officials in the Trump White House frequently request anonymity to brief reporters “on background,” meaning their names will not be disclosed.

The latest reports in the Russia matter said Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about setting up secret communications with Moscow during the presidential transition.

While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and his associates’ potential involvement. More attorneys with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added, along with crisis communication experts, to help the White House in the weeks ahead.

“They need to quarantine this stuff and put the investigations in a separate communications operation,” said Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel for President Bill Clinton.

During the Monica Lewinsky investigation, the Clinton White House brought on a dedicated group of lawyers and a created a separate media operation to handle investigation-related inquiries so they didn’t completely subsume the president’s agenda.