The Russia “cloud” is growing over President Donald Trump and threatening to wreck another week for the embattled White House as one of his closest allies tries to avoid a public spectacle on Capitol Hill.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that he would testify before Senate Russia investigators caught everyone — including the intelligence committee — by surprise. Now, before he even testifies, the focus is both on Sessions and whether or not he would appear before the TV cameras like former FBI Director James Comey did last week, when 19.5 million Americans watched.
Trump team has struggled to move the focus away from Russia.
The White House is hoping this week to drive a message focused on his agenda. His daughter and top adviser, Ivanka Trump, is leading events focused on workforce development and college affordability.
But Russia — and Trump’s own tweeting — threaten to swallow that effort whole, much like last week’s largely forgotten “Infrastructure Week.” In addition to Sessions’ possible testimony, the question remains whether or not Trump taped his conversations with Comey.
The President himself tweeted early Sunday morning touting his economic record.
“The #FakeNews MSM doesn’t report the great economic news since Election Day. #DOW up 16%. #NASDAQ up 19.5%,” Trump wrote in the first of two tweets.
Minutes later, Trump demonstrated the White House’s messaging problem, immediately shifting to Comey and kicking off another news cycle: “I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!'”
Adding to the tension for the White House are fast-approaching deadlines in Congress to approve a health care bill before a September 30 deadline and agree on a tax reform plan — both top campaign promises, which appear to be longshots.
Trump’s chief White House liaison to the Hill, Marc Short, admitted last week in a call with reporters that Russia questions had sucked much of the oxygen out of the room.