His administration beset with legal issues and facing a growing media focused on scandal, President Trump is being urged to quickly set up a separate operation to handle those issues, and possibly begin raising money to pay lawyers fees of over $1,000 an hour.
Some of the recommendations are coming from former Bill Clinton aides who credited their efforts to separate policy from scandal with getting the Democrat reelected and into retirement with sky high approval ratings.
"A significant reason as to why Bill Clinton not only was re-elected in 1996 but left office with record high approval ratings was that even during the nadir of a personal scandal, he retained significant public support as he was rightly perceived as doing a great job for the country as its president," said former Clinton aide Chris Lehane, who manned a separate legal and communications shop created just to handle the Whitewater, Lewinsky and other affairs.
"For any president enmeshed in the hydra of multiple investigations, long term viability as a political force typically relates to one's ability to maintain support from the public because once those in Congress - foes and friends alike - believe that a president's levels of public support will impact whether they themselves will win or lose at the ballot box is the moment one really gets boxed in," added Lehane, now the head of policy for Airbnb.
In addition, Clinton also set up an official arm just to raise money for a legal defense fund. Lehane suggested that it would be easier today through a GoFundMe type of page.
The Washington Post also raised the possibility of a legal defense fund, possibly run by the Republican National Committee.
Several top Trump aides have felt forced to hire high-priced lawyers and communications aides, bills that could top $10,000 a month.
During the Clinton administration, the same thing happened and nearly broke aides. Lehane said, "there will likely be all sorts of people who had no real or substantive role that will accrue legal fees merely because they get caught up in interviews, depositions, testimony, etc. I remember a 20-something White House colleague who merely took a message that ended up having 10s of thousands of dollars of legal fees — including several thousand dollars every time she went to see her lawyer, and she was taking a Metro to get there."
Creation of a separate inside communications operation to handle questions like those about Russian ties to the Clinton campaign would help in two ways, said the advisors.
First, it would allow the press and policy operation to focus on the Trump agenda and getting that story out.
Second, it would deal with what is fast becoming a separate White House press corps, one just focused on scandal, as during the Clinton administration.
Lehane explained the need for one:
"This is like coaching children's soccer — you don't want everyone clustered around the ball and kicking it — especially if the kicking results in unintended shots on your own goal. Per the Clinton White House experience, isolating the crisis response to a specific unit of folks within the building allows the rest of the White House to operate so that those theoretically responsible for doing the work of the people can focus on that theoretical work, while at the same time, also theoretically, having a team solely focused on managing the crisis per an organizing strategy. This organizational design allows the White House — and really an entire administration — to avoid being paralyzed by the fog of a crisis and, relatedly, by freeing up the an administration to focus on the work of the people, demonstrate to those people that serving the Republic remains the priority."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org