President Donald Trump, frustrated by his aides’ handling of the multiple scandals engulfing the White House, is turning to the comfort of his old campaign advisers.
Former officials including Jason Miller, David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski have slid back into the president’s group of advisers as Trump has chafed at the steady stream of damaging leaks and critical blind quotes that have flowed out of the West Wing.
While it’s not clear any of these old hands will ultimately land a job in the White House, Trump has been weighing a major staff overhaul, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, and has openly called his current press team “incompetent.”
Those close to Trump say it may be time for the president to make a change.
“I’ve known the president for 40 years, I consider myself a hard-core Trump loyalist,” said former campaign adviser Roger Stone. “I look at the White House staff list and I know two people on the staff. He has surrounded himself with quislings, and they leak like a sieve. He beat the establishment and then he immediately hired them, that doesn’t make any sense.”
In recent days, some of Trump’s top campaign aides – some of whom were ousted – have made an appearance at the White House.
Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager who briefly ran a pro-Trump super PAC, sat in a meeting on Monday morning during which Trump blasted press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Mike Dubke for their handling of the fallout of Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to a White House official and an outside adviser.
Another White House official confirmed Bossie’s presence, but disputed the nature of Trump’s displeasure. “It was more out of frustration, not anyone, directed at the media, not the people who work there,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Lewandowski, who was pushed out as Trump’s campaign manager after roughly handling a reporter, was spotted in the West Wing lobby on Tuesday, according to two White House officials, as Trump’s aides were dealing with another damaging report that Trump allegedly shared highly classified information with Russian officials.
Lewandowski declined to comment on whether he met with Trump in the Oval Office.
A White House official said that Trump has floated the idea of bringing back his longest-serving campaign manager, who recently resigned from his lobbying shop Avenue Strategies amid allegations that he appeared to be selling access to the White House. He has told people that the president has asked him to “bring order” to Trump’s feuding White House staff, according to a GOP operative briefed on the situation.
The operative said Lewandowski is already talking up the idea that he has been helping “broker” conversations between the White House and other prospective new staff – something Lewandowski denied.
“I have never said the things you are reporting,” Lewandowski told POLITICO.
Trump has also turned to his former campaign communications director Jason Miller for messaging advice, as his frustrations grows with Dubke, whom Trump believes is an ineffective defender and advocate, according to four people with knowledge of the situation.
Miller, who has visited the White House multiple times and regularly talks with Trump by phone, has become one of the president’s favorite surrogates and informal advisers. Trump has openly mused about taking Miller on in Dubke’s role as communications director, according to an outside adviser, but Miller has told friends in the administration that he plans on remaining on the outside.
The White House declined to comment.
Many of the loyalists Trump is increasingly turning to were frozen out during the transition when chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, brought on a slew of his own staffers.
Within the White House there’s a clear divide between RNC staffers, who critics say are preoccupied with protecting Priebus, and the rest of the staff, who former RNC staffers say don’t have the political and governing experience to run the White House.
Many hoped that chief strategist Steve Bannon would be a champion for campaign loyalists, but he has shown little interest in building an extensive staff network within the administration the way Priebus has, according to allies and White House staffers.
It’s not clear, however, that Trump is ready to formally bring his old campaign advisers into the West Wing. Trump has floated the idea of staff shakeups, especially regarding Priebus and Bannon, since early in his presidency but he has yet to pull the trigger on dramatic personnel changes.
And some wonder whether nostalgia is driving Trump’s contact with his former advisers.
“It’s less about bringing back old campaign aides and more about missing the days when he trusted his staff,” said one close adviser.
Kenneth P. Vogel contributed to the report.