Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, he confirmed to The Hill early Tuesday, in what could be the beginning of a major staff overhaul amid the growing Russia controversy.
Dubke had only been on the job for three months before tendering his resignation on May 18. He offered to remain in his post to help manage communications during President Trump’s overseas trip, and Trump accepted.
Dubke’s last day has not yet been determined, and a successor has not been chosen.
"I want to thank Mike Dubke for his service to President Trump and this administration,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said in a statement. “We appreciate Mike and are very grateful for his service to President Trump and our country.”
Priebus said Dubke “will assist with the transition” to a new communications director “and be a strong advocate for the president and the president's policies moving forward.”
His exit comes as the White House is weighing broader staff changes to help stanch the damage from deepening crises surrounding his associates’ alleged ties to Russia.
Fresh off a nine-day foreign trip, Trump is being forced to confront an investigation into potential collusion between his allies and the Russian government’s alleged election meddling that is now led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Trump made it clear the probe is top of mind during a string of tweets Tuesday morning.
“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,” the president wrote.
Dubke, a veteran Republican operative, was hired in February to help restructure a White House communications shop that struggled to deal with a number of controversies that have consumed Trump's presidency.
Previously, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had also filled the role of communications director but the workload became too heavy for him.
Both men have been the target of criticism from Trump allies for how they handled the fallout from the president's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and the ensuing escalation of the Russia investigation. There have also been rumors that Spicer’s on-camera briefings will be scaled back, but he was scheduled to conduct one at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Another Republican strategist close to the White House said Trump was annoyed at Dubke after the aide told aides last month, "There is no Trump doctrine."
Sources say Trump stewed over the remark, reported then by Politico. In the weeks that followed, he told friends and associates he didn't feel like Dubke was doing a good job.
"He never really got over that," the source close to the White House said. "He was frustrated at the situation. He was never mad at the communications team itself but he knew he was being buried in negative press. He knew something needed to happen and he knew had to do something about it."
As a result, "Dubke became the fall guy," the source said. "He never recovered."
Beyond Spicer, the source said, Dubke "never really had a senior patron or anyone who really cared about him on the staff. So he turned out to be the perfect person to take the fall for all of Trump's miscommunications."
But the broad consensus in Washington is that Dubke had an impossible job.
Sources close to Dubke say he prides himself on being hyper-organized and a "planner” and indicated he was tired of being undermined by Trump’s tendency to shoot from the hip.
"Being involved in an organization that freelances as much as it does was a problem," said a Republican strategist familiar with the situation. "Yes, it's normal that in a White House you are responding to things that come your way but you're also being proactive. And the ratio of proactive to reactive wasn't where you want to be. I don't know how you couldn't be frustrated."
Incessant rumors of an impending staff shakeup added to his decision to leave.
"He had enough of watching potential successors paraded in front of him before he got the clue and punched out," said one source close to the White House.
Dubke was also frustrated to go through an arduous divestiture process for a principal who wasn't following a plan. "He thought it would be easier than it wound up being," one source said.
"It wasn't so much that it was just one thing, or another thing, I think it was a combination," the strategist said, adding that Dubke "reached a point where he felt like he needed to resign.”
Another source close to Dubke said the appointment of Mueller as special prosecutor “was the last straw.”
Dubke entered the White House with few close connections to Trump or his senior staff, and his quick exit shows how difficult it’s been for outsiders to gain traction inside the West Wing.
His departure comes amid talk that Trump might bring back familiar faces from the 2016 campaign to stop the bleeding from the Russia probe.
The president has reportedly been considering tapping combative former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and ex-deputy campaign manager David Bossie to help lead a so-called "war room" to respond to the special counsel's investigation into any ties between his associates, from either outside or inside the White House, and Russia.
— Reid Wilson contributed to this report, which was last updated at 12:23 p.m.