Trump holding interviews for national security adviser as he tries to refocus
'The truth is that we don't have problems in the West Wing,' chief of staff tells U.S. media
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday was stepping up his search for a national security adviser, with several interviews on tap, and focusing on health care in talks with his health and budget chiefs. Meanwhile, while his team pushed back against depictions of a young administration in disarray.
His chief of staff used appearances on the Sunday news shows to echo his boss's complaints about media coverage of the White House and cited what he said were multiple accomplishments in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency.
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"The truth is that we don't have problems in the West Wing," Reince Priebus told NBC's Meet the Press.
Priebus also denied a report that Trump advisers were in touch with Russian intelligence advisers during the 2016 campaign, and said he had assurances from "the top levels of the intelligence community" that it was false.
Search for national security adviser
After weeks of tumult in Washington, Trump returned to Florida and his private club for a third straight weekend. After a raucous campaign rally Saturday night, Trump and his wife, Melania, stopped by a fundraiser at his private Palm Beach club, put on by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A White House official confirmed his attendance, requesting anonymity to discuss the president's schedule.
High on Trump's to-do list is finding a replacement for ousted Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
Scheduled to discuss the job with the president at Mar-a-Lago were:
- Trump's acting advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.
- Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.
- Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
- Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.
First choice turned job down
Trump pushed out Flynn last Monday after revelations that Flynn misled Vice-President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition. Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.
Trump's first choice to replace Flynn, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the offer.
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Trump also was expected to discuss health-care policy in a meeting Health Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office.
Top House Republicans last week presented a rough sketch of a health overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers that would void Barack Obama's 2010 law and replace it with conservative policies. It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors' bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.
'Life is a campaign'
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Republicans would introduce legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act after Congress returns in late February, but he offered no specifics.
Also on Trump's Sunday schedule: calls to the leaders of Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The day of presidential business follows a return on Saturday to campaign mode when Trump held a rally before thousands of supporters at an airplane hangar in Melbourne. He revived campaign promises to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, reduce regulations and create jobs — and continued his attacks on the media.
The rally was put on by Trump's campaign, not the White House. Trump told reporters he was holding a campaign rally because "life is a campaign."
Trump, who held a rally in the same spot in Florida in September, clearly relished being back in front of his supporters, welcoming the cheers and letting one supporter up on stage to offer praise for the president. He also enjoyed reliving his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
'Just give him a chance, people'
Gene Huber, 47, a car salesman from West Palm Beach, Florida, had been waiting in line to see Trump since 4 a.m. "His excitement and the love that he shows us, the people, that's why each day brought me stronger and closer to him," Huber said.
In an unusual move, Trump allowed Huber to join him on stage and address the crowd during the rally. He acknowledged later that the move probably did not please the Secret Service.
Huber encouraged non-Trump supporters to come around.
"Look at what this man has been doing. When he was the president-elect, bringing jobs into this country, fixing things. And now, the first month of his presidency he's been fantastic. Just give him a chance, people. He will do what he needs to do for America, and he loves you."
Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis since the inauguration, including the botched rollout of his immigration order, struggles confirming his Cabinet picks and a near-constant stream of reports about strife within his administration.
Priebus would have none of it.
"The fact of the matter is the level of accomplishment that he's put forward so far in the first 30 days has been remarkable," he told CBS's Face the Nation.
With files from Reuters