Political News

Shaping Trump's messaging as he looks to fill communications director post

Posted August 7

There's no shortage of senior advisers in President Donald Trump's White House, yet one office remains vacant: communications director.

The last man to hold the job, Anthony Scaramucci, was unceremoniously dumped after 10 days. Trump's new chief of staff John Kelly determined his expletive-laced rant about senior colleagues couldn't stand.

Before that, the position was filled by Sean Spicer, who was briefing the media daily as press secretary at the same time. Mike Dubke endured a largely anonymous three months in the role at the beginning of the administration.

Usually, the White House communications director is responsible for shaping the administration's message and developing a strategy for selling programs and decisions to the American public. Others on the team, including the press secretary, are responsible for executing those plans.

Now the strategy post is empty, though Trump has no shortage of allies delivering his message. And the President himself -- who has long determined that he's his own best spokesman -- has never been muted in proclaiming his successes.

There are some White House officials who wonder whether a communications director -- at least in the traditional capacity -- is even needed for a decidedly untraditional President.

RELATED: Trump, Blumenthal exchange jabs on Twitter

Instead, they say the President's wide network of advisers inside and outside the White House are acting as a de facto communications team in their blanket appearances on cable television, chiefly Fox News.

But there is some agreement that the team needs a strategy. Here are the top players as Trump weighs the future of his communications team:

Stephen Miller

Currently a White House senior policy adviser, Miller is being eyed for an elevated communications position, a White House official told CNN. The official said it's possible Miller would remain in his policy job while also stepping into a communications role. Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist who is aligned ideologically with Miller, favors the restructuring, officials said.

David Lapan

Lapan has worked closely alongside chief of staff John Kelly for over a decade, most recently at the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly is hoping to bring him to the White House in a top messaging and communications job, according to White House officials.

Kellyanne Conway

Trump's presidential counselor ran his successful campaign last year. Now, her job involves "scouring" daily polling on behalf of the President, she told ABC on Sunday. She also appears regularly on television as an advocate for Trump and his administration. She is likely to remain in her current role with a heavy TV presence.

Hope Hicks

One of Trump's longest-serving political aides, Hicks currently acts as his senior communications adviser. But her role is almost entirely unseen; you won't find her on television or behind a podium. Instead, she helps shape Trump's messaging using her longtime relationship with the President. She's likely to continue in her behind-the-curtain role.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sanders just stepped into the press secretary job after Spicer resigned his post in the wake of Scaramucci's firing. In a traditional White House, she would be responsible for executing the communications strategy. But as in previous administrations, the lines are blurred. Sanders also plays a role in developing the messaging strategy, and will continue in that job.

John Kelly

When Kelly was installed as chief of staff, there were mixed expectations for his ability to rein in Trump on Twitter. A person familiar with Kelly's approach told CNN the new chief of staff did hope to moderate Trump's approach to the medium, but did not place it among his highest priorities in the West Wing. Kelly has spoken with Trump about Twitter and offered suggestions, the official said, but does not have any expectation that he'll completely change the way Trump tweets.

Sebastian Gorka

A military history expert, Gorka is now a ubiquitous presence on television to promote Trump's actions on foreign policy. He's not known to play a major role in crafting the President's foreign agenda, but is a favorite of the President's for his combative approach to interviews.

Kayleigh McEnany

The one-time CNN contributor was announced on Monday as the new national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee -- a job that will place her on television to defend and explain Trump's positions. She also appeared online in a new Trump TV venture listing off positive economic indicators as a sign of an improving economy.

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