The Trump White House has taken steps to restrict access to President Donald Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders after his now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led to his impending impeachment.
CNN reports that officials have restricted access to Trump’s foreign calls with a small number of loyalists and that “transcripts of Trump’s calls with world leaders are also disseminated to a far smaller group of people inside the White House.”
Trump’s July 25th call with Zelensky set off alarm bells among multiple White House officials after the president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Now, however, one official tells CNN that “nobody is allowed on the calls” and that “the barn door officially closed after the horse escaped.”
Officials who have been sanctioned to participate in the president’s calls include national security adviser Robert O’Brien, his deputy Matt Pottinger, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and his deputy Rob Blair.
However, some experts worry that keeping so many officials out of the loop will hinder the administration’s ability to conduct a coherent policy.
“National security professionals seeking to advance US policy objectives may or may not reflect or even be aware of Trump’s personal views, which are often divorced from a rational process and center on Trump’s own obsessions and political interests at the expense of the national interest,” Colin Kahl, a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, tells CNN. “Cutting subject matter experts and professionals out the loop will make this problem worse.”
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Trump Is Substituting Image-Boosting Photo-Ops in Place of Getting Work Done as Impeachment Looms: Report
As both the 2020 election and the threat of being impeached loom, embattled President Donald Trump is getting out and about more than ever for photo-ops and personal appearances in an effort to give the appearance that everything is normal and he’s getting work done.
According to a report at the Washington Post, the president’s surprise appearance in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day as well as his visit to London next week are being used by the White House to help boost his image as a chief executive attending to his job as the leader of the free world.
“As Democrats in Congress push to impeach him, President Trump has toured a manufacturing plant in Texas, boasted about economic gains and signed numerous bills. He served turkey to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and grieved with the families of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware,” the report states. “Sure, Trump has been consumed by the impeachment proceedings, popping off daily, if not hourly, about what he dubs a ‘hoax.’ But he and his aides also have staged photo opportunities and public events designed to showcase the president on the job — a strategy one year out from the election to convince the American people that he is hard at work for them at the same time that Democrats are trying to remove him from office.”
According to the Post’s Phillip Rucker, Trump advisors are taking a page out of former President Bill Clinton’s playbook when he was also facing impeachment.
Noting, “Then-President Bill Clinton survived his 1998 impeachment in part because the economy was roaring and because he appeared to many voters to be relentlessly focused on doing the business of the American people,” Rucker notes one big difference between the two presidents.
“Clinton had a built-in advantage that Trump does not enjoy: popularity. Throughout his second term, Clinton’s approval rating hovered in the high 50s and 60s, whereas Trump’s has been mired below 50 percent,” he writes.
According to former Clinton adviser David Axelrod, the current White House strategy might help boost Trump’s poll numbers, but there are pitfalls when Trump is out and about too much with the Post pointing out the “famously undisciplined president” may not be able to keep it going as his own impeachment looms.
“The images of the president with cheering troops and performing other magisterial and ministerial functions of the office are a way of signifying that he is still in command, doing the job, rather than on the run,” Axelrod suggested.
“This is the right strategy for the president: Show the American people that he is focused on doing his job while Washington Democrats chase the great white whale of impeachment,” added Michael Steel, a former aide to ex-House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH).
According to ex-Clinton official Dan Baer, it may not work for this particular president.
“There’s a huge difference between photo ops that are designed to give people the impression that work is getting done and really doing the work and actually demonstrating results,” he explained. “The Trump White House is going to have to figure out how it begins to put real results on the table for the public in terms of things it’s doing instead of just telling people that things are getting done.”
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