Right pushes Trump to make staff, press changes

President Trump’s allies are pushing him to make drastic changes as the White House deals with persistent leaks and a communications strategy they believe has spun out of control.

There is a broad sense among Trump’s media boosters and early supporters that his staff is failing him, beginning with chief of staff Reince Priebus and extending to press secretary Sean Spicer, whose job security has been the subject of endless speculation.

Now, some of the most influential figures in conservative media are openly auditioning for Spicer’s job, calling for the ouster of communications director Mike Dubke or pushing the White House to fight back against the media by ending press briefings altogether.

Some of those measures — in particular the measure to freeze out the press — are catching on among Trump’s conservative base.

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“I have always been against the White House doing daily press briefings and agree that an overhaul of how the communications team deals with the media is in order,” said Mark Meckler, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots. “We are dealing with a media that is, by and large, hostile to conservatives, hostile to Republicans, hostile to ideas of limited government, fiscal responsibility and constitutionalism, and certainly hostile to this president. So the president and his staff should act accordingly.”

On his Monday night program, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity called for an end to the daily press briefing — something Trump has mused about on Twitter.

Hannity accused reporters of seeking publicity for themselves through public combat with the White House.

He said the White House should strike back by having reporters submit questions in writing, “giving the White House time to respond with clarity and specificity.” Following that, Spicer or deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could then take a handful of questions from reporters on prearranged topics, Hannity said.

“If the White House follows this plan, I think the destroy-Trump propaganda media will have a much harder time misrepresenting the Trump administration positions and you, the American people, will be better served,” he said.

Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who has been rumored as a potential replacement for Spicer, agreed with Hannity, saying reporters had no right to be hanging around Trump’s White House.

Hannity asked Ingraham if she would accept a role in Trump’s administration as communications director — a position currently held by Dubke, another in Trump’s long line of embattled aides. Ingraham did not rule it out.

“I would always go help serve my country if I thought I could really make a difference,” she said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle reignited the latest round of speculation over Spicer’s job, telling The Mercury News she has had conversations with administration officials about taking over as press secretary.

“I think it’d be a fascinating job,” Guilfoyle said. “It’s a challenging job, and you need someone really determined and focused, a great communicator in there with deep knowledge to be able to handle that position.”

The push for changes comes after a week of crisis for the White House, in which Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and his reported leak of highly classified information to Russian officials have provoked Democrats and many in the media to question his motives and competence as commander in chief.

Trump’s allies blame the uproar on a failure of Trump’s chief of staff to assert authority inside a White House bitten by daily leaks to the press that paint a chaotic and unflattering picture of the president. 

“It all comes back to the chief of staff,” said one GOP operative with close ties to the White House.

“Nobody respects him; nobody is afraid of him,” the operative said of Priebus. “You need someone in there who makes people feel their career in Washington would be ruined by running afoul of the president.”

Others blame the communications team for failing to control the media and get the president’s message out.

That problem has been exacerbated by Trump’s propensity for contradicting his spokespeople or keeping them in the dark.

Last week, the White House hung its rationale for firing Comey on a letter penned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who laid out how the former FBI director had bungled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump Jr. adds to legal team ahead of Senate meeting Trump: Democrats, Russians laughing at 'phony Russian Witch Hunt' Scaramucci makes Sunday shows debut with vow to stop WH leaks MORE’s private email server.

The White House’s struggle to defend the move was reportedly driven by Trump only notifying his communications team an hour before it happened.

In subsequent interviews, Trump had said he had known from his first day in office he would fire Comey and that he did it in part because he believes the investigation into alleged collusion between members of his presidential campaign and Moscow is bogus.

This week, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other high-ranking officials released statements disputing the bombshell Washington Post report that Trump had shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.

Trump later argued he had the “absolute right” to do so.

“I don’t care if you only have one hour to figure out your messaging,” said one former campaign adviser. “These people are supposed to be the best of the best, the elite. It’s a tough job. We don’t want to hear excuses.”