As Trump grapples with crisis, communications aide steps down
A senior aide to President Donald Trump is leaving the job, the White House said on Tuesday, as the president considers wider staff changes amid growing political fallout over probes into Russia and his presidential campaign.
White House Communications Director Mike Dubke confirmed reports he had resigned, saying in a statement, "It has been my great honor to serve President Trump and this administration." Dubke, who had been in the job just three months, gave no reason for leaving.
Trump, who returned to Washington on Saturday after a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, has been expected to shake up staff to tackle the distracting firestorm over investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and communication between Russia and Trump's campaign.
He plans to bring in new aides to the White House, adding experienced political professionals including a former campaign manager, according to administration officials and persons close to Trump.
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The Republican president has also repeatedly expressed frustration with internal leaks coming from the White House. "It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media," Trump wrote in a series of Twitter posts on Sunday.
Dubke resigned on May 18 though he has not set a last day on the job, according to Axios News, which first reported his departure. Dubke told Politico on Tuesday he expected to go back to Black Rock Group, his communications and public affairs firm.
Dubke, who was brought into the White House in March as head of the office that runs press and other public relations issues, wanted to stay on through Trump's first foreign trip to ensure a smooth transition, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.
Other potential staff changes could be in the works, according to Axios, including fewer on-camera news briefings by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.
Trump will also take more questions directly from the media, Axios reported. Conway said the White House will continue to bring in Cabinet secretaries and other top officials to handle news briefings on topics in their patch.
Conway also dismissed persistent speculation that Spicer, who has been pilloried on TV comedy shows since Trump took office on Jan. 20, was on his way out. She said he would be back at the podium to brief reporters on Tuesday.
Spicer worked with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee. Priebus and White House adviser Steve Bannon have been laying the groundwork for the new "war room."
Controversy over the Russia issue deepened after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey earlier this month, leading to allegations by critics that the president sought to hamper the agency's probe into the matter.
Moscow has denied U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that it meddled in the campaign to try to tilt the election in Trump's favor. The president has denied any collusion, repeatedly denouncing the probes as an effort by Democrats to explain Hillary Clinton's upset defeat in the White House race.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)