Trump's Unprecedented Hands-on Messaging Carries Risks - NBC 6 South Florida
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's first year as president

Trump's Unprecedented Hands-on Messaging Carries Risks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump's claim that leaders from the Boy Scouts called him to praise the aggressive political speech he gave last week at the national jamboree was not a lie, even as she acknowledged that no such call was made. She also defended another of the president's inaccurate claims, this one about a phone call from Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto – which never happened. "They were direct conversations," Sanders said. "Not actual phone calls." (Published Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017)

    For the third time in six months, President Donald Trump is on the hunt for a new communications director. But in practice, the job is filled.

    It's Trump who's the White House's leading expert and the final word on what and how he communicates with the public. Despite decrying most negative media coverage as "fake news" and personally insulting members of the media, he has inserted himself into the White House's press operations in an unprecedented fashion for a president.

    Trump has dictated news releases and pushed those who speak for him to bend the facts to bolster his claims. He has ignored the advice of his legal team and thrown out carefully planned legislative strategies with a single 140-character tweet.

    His direct, hands-on style helped him win the White House and still thrills his supporters. It also, however, poses increasing political and potentially legal risks. The clearest example is his involvement in crafting a statement for son Donald Jr. about a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer. That declaration was quickly proven erroneous and raised questions about whether the president was trying to cover for his son.

    Trump Mocks Democrats: 'Any Russians Here Tonight?'

    [NATL] 'Any Russians Here Tonight?' Trump Mocks Hillary Clinton, Democrats at West Virginia Rally

    President Donald Trump, frustrated with allegations of Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election season, mocked Democrats at a Thursday rally in West Virginia, asking sarcastically if there were "any Russians" in West Virginia and other swing states that voted for him. 

    (Published Friday, Aug. 4, 2017)

    Trump has struggled to find a communications adviser that meets his approval.

    His first, Mike Dubke, stayed behind the scenes and never clicked with Trump, leaving after three months. Then Sean Spicer, Trump's oft-beleaguered press secretary, took on the communications director job as well. He resigned both posts last month when Trump brought in hard-charging New York financier Anthony Scaramucci. Scaramucci lasted only 11 days before being fired in the aftermath of an expletive-filled interview.

    A fourth candidate for the post, campaign spokesman Jason Miller, was named to the job during the transition but turned it down days later, citing a need to spend time with his family.

    More recently there have been some informal internal conversations about an increased communications role for White House aide Stephen Miller, according to an administration official who was not authorized to discuss private talks by name and requested anonymity. Those talks are still seen as preliminary. Miller recently clashed with some reporters over immigration policy at a contentious press briefing.

    This past week, as White House staffers readied a statement accompanying Trump's signature on legislation approving toughened sanctions on Russia — a bill Trump criticized — word came down that the president wanted to add some off-topic language into the statement. That's according to two officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly talk about internal discussions.

    "I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars," the new section read. "That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As president, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress."

    Trump, McConnell Discuss Legislative Priorities, GOP Unity

    [NATL] Trump Lays Out 'To-Do' List, Discusses Legislative Priorities With McConnell
    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood together Monday as a show of solidarity during an impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters. 
    The two have publicly feuded in recent weeks, but now, as they're trying to advance the GOP agenda, they say they're closer than ever. 
    (Published Monday, Oct. 16, 2017)

    That personal and boastful rhetoric is a far cry from the formal language normally found in presidential statements. It also appeared aimed at angering the same lawmakers he will need if he wants to pass any major legislation.

    "All presidents are their own best messengers," said Ari Fleischer, press secretary for President George W. Bush. Fleischer said that Bush, too, would at times get involved with the White House press shop.

    Fleischer noted there was always a safety net of advisers at work. That does not appear to exist around the current president — particular around his Twitter account.

    "The lesson for this president is that it's perfectly fine to be involved and to, at times, go around the mainstream media with Twitter," Fleischer said. "But he needs to tweet smarter."

    Corralling the president's impulses is a challenge that now falls to new White House chief of staff John Kelly, a four-star Marine general tasked with straightening out an unruly West Wing. But many Trump allies don't believe he'll alter his ways.

    "The reality is President Trump is sitting in the Oval Office," said Sam Nunberg, a former campaign staffer. "And before that, he was a mogul with a business that spanned continents. He did it his way. He's not going to change. It got him where he is and it will keep him where he is."

    Trump Says Iran Deal Not in US National Security Interests

    [NATL] Trump Says Iran Deal Not in US National Security Interests

    "We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout," President Donald Trump said on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 13, 2017)

    Trump has long considered himself his own best spokesman and cares deeply about his public perception.

    While a budding real estate magnate in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, he was known to call reporters to plant anonymously sourced scoops about himself. He vaulted to national stardom with "The Apprentice" and micromanaged aspects of his appearances, including his hair and lighting.

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump was known to obsess over single images in a commercial or the font for an ad.

    As president, he frequently has raged about his communications staff, blaming them for White House's stumbles while almost never taking responsibility himself.

    An avid consumer of cable news, Trump scolds surrogates when he thinks they are not adequately defending him on television. His frequently shifting positions also challenge his staffers, who have grown to be fearful of answering basic questions about the president's beliefs for fear of later being contradicted, according to more than a half dozen White House officials and outside advisers speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

    And the president has pushed staff to defend untruths, including when he ordered Spicer, in Spicer's first White House briefing, to claim that the size of Trump's inauguration crowd was larger than his predecessor's, according to three White House officials and outside advisers familiar with the encounter.

    Trump Signs Executive Order Re-Working Parts of Health Care

    [NATL] Trump Signs Executive Order Re-Working Parts of Health Care

    President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, seeking to expand insurance coverage across state lines through so-called association health plans. Those health plans will not exclude workers or charge more to those in poorer health, according to the White House.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017)

    More untruths have followed. In March, Trump tweeted without evidence that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower. And soon after firing FBI Director James Comey, Trump tweeted a warning that Comey had better hope there were no tapes of their White House conversations. There weren't.

    Another statement has received bipartisan condemnation and could face scrutiny from investigators probing possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian officials.

    As news broke last month that Trump Jr. had met with Russians in June 2016, the president's eldest son released a statement — which was in part crafted on Air Force One by the president and a small group of aides while flying home from a summit in Europe — that claimed the meeting was about adoptions. But within days, Trump Jr. had to revise his story several times before eventually acknowledging that he was trying to procure damaging, Russia-produced information about Hillary Clinton.

    "This was a bad decision by the president," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "When you get caught in a lie about one thing, it makes it hard to just say let the other stuff go."

    Press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week that Trump "weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had."