Trump's White House press shop intends to change status quo

Trump's White House press shop intends to change status quo
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The communications team announced by President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP-Trump trade fight boils over with threat to cars Trump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela MORE on Thursday shows that the status quo is shifting in the White House press shop as well as in other corners of the incoming administration

The structure of the team is changing from past administrations in order to address the needs of the first Twitter president.

While previous White House communications staffs have been hierarchical, Trump’s four appointees will each be an "assistant to the president” along with their more specific job titles. 

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That jibes with word from sources in previous days that Trump was weighing creating equal roles instead of the usual chain of command. 

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s chief strategist and spokesman, will take over the mantle of White House press secretary, and campaign communications adviser Jason Miller will become White House communications director. 

Joining them in the press shop will be Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino, two longtime Trump loyalists who have been with the business mogul since the start of his presidential bid. Hicks will serve as director of strategic communications while Scavino will become director of social media. Both served in similar roles during the campaign. 

The four have had months of experience together on the campaign, with Spicer and Miller coordinating the daily transition calls since the election. On the surface at least, the aides are positioned to work well together in the White House. 

At the same time, the parallel roles could create rival centers of power, something Trump observers say has been a hallmark of Trump Inc.

Trump allies say Trump’s White House press operations might look different from those that came before them.

“Unlike a cabinet department where a lot of this is statutory, the president can change his staff and structure at his whim. If he wants to create a hydra-headed communications shop…he can do it,” said Jeffrey Lord, a top Trump cable surrogate and former White House aide. “A Trump White House will be an extension of his personality and his organizational style.”

Unlike more methodical press operations, Lord said it’s incumbent on the Trump press shop to be nimble and ready to amplify the presidential message, even if it’s one that comes out of an unexpected tweet.

Spicer did not return a request for comment from The Hill about his upcoming role. But he’s been a vocal defender of Trump for months on social media and cable news, Trump’s preferred mediums.

Although Spicer is steeped in the GOP establishment, he share his boss’s taste for an unconventional approach. 

Last week, he floated the prospect of Trump shaking up “this very stale operation” in the White House press corps, adding that conservative media and bloggers could have more of a presence and that the format of a standard daily briefing could change. He also entertained the prospect of making the briefing room seats first-come first-served, rather than having them assigned to specific outlets, as is currently the case.

The remarks were made at a Politico event where, true to the combative form of Team Trump, Spicer blasted the hosting news organization for “clickbait” journalism that’s “devoid of facts” and unfair to Republicans. 

More broadly, Spicer said, “What Donald Trump represents is someone who comes in and says, ‘Let’s get it done, let’s question the status quo, let’s end business as usual and let’s make real change.”

Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Trump’s, told The Hill that the press shop and the role of spokesman is going to gain an outsized importance in the Trump administration.

“Because of his interests, the fact that he’ll continue Twitter, he does speak his mind and impromptu—they really do need to have this daily briefing every day,” he said.

“Donald is very comfortable with Miller and from what I understand, likes Spicer. Spicer is a veteran, he parachutes into the job, he knows all the players, he’s got good relationships. And one of the things Donald likes about him is he knows all of the conservative-leaning media.”

The tentacles of the press strategy will likely extend far outside the official shop, as those closest to Trump have vast media experience. 

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser, comes from helming the conservative Breitbart News and is expected to play a major role in crafting the White House’s message. And so is former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, chosen Thursday to serve as counselor to the President.

Even though the more recent relationship between Trump and the press has turned—at times—antagonistic, Ruddy said that Trump will make messaging a top priority for both him and his White House.

“For all the criticism, if you look at the overall history, he’s had a generally good relationship with the media. It’s only in the closing months where it’s gotten bad,” he said. 

“He wants to go back to a more positive relationship with the media… he’s going to be much more involved with the press than probably any other president."

Updated at 6:58 p.m.