White House communications director resigns amid tensions

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Washington—A top White House communications staffer has resigned as President Donald Trump considers a major staff overhaul amid intensifying inquiries into his campaign’s dealings with Russia.

The departure of Michael Dubke, Trump’s communications director, comes as aides and outside advisers say Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and revelations of possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

Dubke offered his resignation earlier this month, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway told The Associated Press on Tuesday, but offered to stay on during the president’s first foreign trip. A Republican consultant, Dubke joined the White House team in February. Dubke is the latest White House staffer to leave the administration as scrutiny intensifies over contacts Trump staffers may have had with Russian government officials during the campaign and transition.

It’s unclear whether other staff moves are imminent. Trump has entertained bringing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, more formally back into the fold. And both Lewandowski and Bossie visited the White House on Monday night, according to a person familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private get-together.

Dubke’s hiring was intended to lighten the load on Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who had also been handling the duties of communications director during Trump’s first month in office. Trump has privately and publicly pinned much of the blame for his administration’s rough start on the White House’s communications strategy.

While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and his associates’ potential involvement. More attorneys with deep experience in Washington investigations are expected to be added, along with crisis communication experts, to help the White House in the weeks ahead.

The latest revelations to emerge last week involved Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the election, Kushner allegedly discussed setting up a secret communications channel with the Russian government to facilitate sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria.

A senior administration official said Kushner was keeping his head down and focusing on work after the foreign trip. The official said Kushner was eager to share what he knows with Congress and other investigators.

The disclosure of the back channel has put the White House on the defensive. Just back from his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, Trump dismissed recent reports as “fake news”.

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