A flurry of dramatic reports came out of the White House Tuesday night from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Politico, as the Trump administration sought to handle the latest developments in the news that the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. had met with a Kremlin-linked attorney during the presidential campaign to get information from “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” which he was told would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton.
According to Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, President Trump is “enraged” at media reports about his son but, importantly, not at his son, whom he commended on Tuesday for his “transparency” and later referred to as “innocent.”
Despite the president’s defense, the White House is still on high alert as it contends with what a White House ally told the Post amounts to a “Category 5 hurricane.” According to that story, Reince Priebus is being held responsible for this lack of discipline in the White House, and Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Melania Trump have all been pushing for Trump to fire Priebus, though they have released public statements to the contrary. The Post reported that they are “especially concerned about the steady stream of leaks” and believe a change in the chief of staff might stem the flow.
The president’s frustration appears to have taken aim at his longtime personal attorney Marc E. Kasowitz, with whom Trump has grown “disillusioned,” according to the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. However, the feeling appears to be mutual, as Kasowitz has been angered by the president and, particularly, the influence of Kushner, whom he views as “a freelancer” only looking out for personal interests and not for the administration. The Times reported that if the status quo — which it characterized as Kushner “whispering in the president’s ear” — continues, sources suggested that Kasowitz might resign in what would be a significant blow to the president.
Both the Times and the Post noted the president’s uncrowded schedule and lack of public appearances upon his return from Germany. Politico’s Tara Palmeri and Josh Dawsey reported Trump was using the time to watch TV coverage of the Trump Jr. story, likely feeding his anger over such reports. The Politico story said that one official characterized Trump’s schedule as “unusually light,” but noted that another aide mentioned the light schedule as an intentional break before the president leaves for France, saying that “it makes sense that you have a couple of days off.”
Politico also reported that with clear evidence from Trump Jr.’s emails with associate Rob Goldstone, who set up the Russian meeting, the story could not be dismissed as “conspiracy bullshit” by the White House as other stories had been. However, the Post did detail a new team in the White House designed to discredit the journalists behind the Trump Jr. stories by researching their previous work and providing any errors to conservative media.
According to the Politico story, there are some concerns that the original leaks that prompted Trump Jr.’s release of the emails came from inside the White House, though, the source noted “there’s only a few names on those emails,” including former campaign chair Paul Manafort and Kushner.
If only Manafort and Kushner had access to the emails and some suspect that the source came from the White House, this might lend credence to Kasowitz’s concerns about Kushner’s loyalty to the administration. In a story where Kushner was privy to the original emails, attended the meeting in question, and failed to report the meeting on his disclosure forms, he has received noticeably little negative coverage, which might indicate he was the source of the original story.