Damage Control at the White House

Feb 13, 2017

President Trump's senior staff is in damage-control mode after a week of unforced errors and drama. National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's job is most directly in peril after apparently lying to the Vice President of the United States about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. Flynn called Mike Pence to try to clear the air last week after reports detailed that he had in fact discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy. But that's not the only reason Flynn is in trouble. The National Security Council under his watch is in chaos, as career staff struggle for direction or a clear vision of what the Trump Administration is looking to accomplish around the world. Meanwhile the departments of State and Defense are taking steps to sidestep Flynn and the NSC process to avoid his meddling.

Other White House aides are also under fire, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who is facing questions about his competency from a close friend of Trump's, and Kellyanne Conway, whose ethics flub last week drew bipartisan attacks. Both jobs are currently safe, but their mistakes are being tallied, if not necessarily by the president—who maintains confidence in them—but from the loyalists around him.

Trump faces another important week of foreign policy action after a weekend visit with the Japanese Prime Minister, punctuated by a flare-up the Sea of Japan after North Korea launched a missile shortly before the President and Shinzo Abe were set to dine. On Monday, Trump is hosting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where trade and the promotion of women in the workforce will be central to the agenda. Trump and Trudeau will host a joint press conference at 2 p.m. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House as the Trump Administration looks to reaffirm its commitment to strengthening relations between the two countries. But some of Trump's promises are being reined back by some of his foreign policy aides, who worry that the U.S. risks losing its credibility as an honest broker in the region.

Trump's sons navigate ethical issues. Mnuchin's hires. And Melania will keep the garden.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Japan's Prime Minister Showed the Way to President Trump's Heart
Months of flattery pays off [TIME]

The White House Keeps Tripping Up on the Truth
President Trump Doesn't Seem to Mind [TIME]

Mike Flynn’s Position as National Security Adviser Grows Tenuous in White House
Administration weighs whether to retain the security adviser after disclosure of contact with Russia officials [Wall Street Journal]

Turmoil at the National Security Council
From the Top Down [New York Times]

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Sound Off

"That's the question that I think you should ask the president, the question you should ask Reince (Priebus), the chief of staff." — White House Senior Advisor for Policy Stephen Miller on whether President Trump has confidence in NSA Mike Flynn

"I don't know about that. I haven't seen it. What report is that? I haven't seen that. I'll look into that." —Trump on reports that Flynn was in contact with the Russian Ambassador about Russian sanctions during the transition

Bits and Bites

White House Declines to Publicly Defend National Security Advisor Michael Flynn [Associated Press]

What to Know About Recent Immigration Raids in U.S. Cities [TIME]

White House's Stephen Miller Doubles Down on Voter Fraud Claim, But Gives No Evidence [TIME]

Justin Trudeau to Meet President Trump in a Crucial Visit For Canada [Associated Press]

Melania Trump Plans to Preserve Michelle Obama's Vegetable Garden [TIME]

Mnuchin looks to Wall Street to fill key Treasury roles [Politico]

For Kushner, Israel Policy May Be Shaped by the Personal [New York Times]

Trump moves spark Iraqi anger, calls against future alliance [Associated Press]

The husband-and-wife team driving Trump's national security policy [Politico]

Trump Sons Forge Ahead Without Father, Expanding and Navigating Conflicts [New York Times]

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