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White House ices Russia war room idea

Corey Lewandowski may assist in that effort to defend the president from the outside, according to the person with knowledge of the conversations. | Getty

Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie won’t join the administration to handle crisis response for the time being, and inquiries will be directed to Trump’s attorney in New York.

The White House’s Russia investigation “war room” may have been killed before the battle.

Just days before former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony about his firing, President Donald Trump decided that all inquiries related to the scandals engulfing his administration should be handled by his outside lawyer in New York instead of by a team based inside the White House, according to four advisers close to Trump.

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The so-called war room, similar to a Clinton administration crisis operation created to deal with Monica Lewinsky-related inquiries, was taking shape as of last week, with plans for two former campaign aides to take over rapid response on Russia questions, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.

Former deputy campaign manager David Bossie was being considered to join the West Wing in a senior position. Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager who was fired in June 2016, was scouting office space in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last week for a White House team.

The president decided that Bossie and Lewandowski would be “more valuable on the outside than on the inside fighting back against the Russia narrative specifically,” said a person with knowledge of the conversations.

One White House official said no final decision had been made, while a second said that the administration will have no direct involvement in responding to the Russia investigation.

“I am not going to comment on a bunch of stories based [sic] rumors,” deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Bossie and Lewandowski did not respond to requests for comment.

While the Clinton White House integrated lawyers into a larger rapid-response operation, the Trump team has so far relegated all inquiries related to the Russia scandal to Trump’s longtime attorney in New York Marc Kasowitz.

There’s still debate over whether Kasowitz will be aided by an outside public relations team to handle media inquiries. Bossie and Lewandowski may assist in that effort to defend the president from the outside, according to the person with knowledge of the conversations.

The president’s senior aides — and the president himself — were never able to reach an agreement on how a war room would function and who Bossie and Lewandowski would report to inside the White House. Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who moved his own press aide into the White House last month and has worked with Trump communications adviser Hope Hicks for years, objected to outsourcing media inquiries to anybody else, according to a White House adviser.

One of the White House officials raised concerns about both Bossie’s and Lewandowski’s strong personalities and their ability to work cohesively with a larger team. Chief strategist Steve Bannon reached out to a handful of the president’s outside allies to ask whether they would be able to work, in particular, with Lewandowski, a divisive figure during the campaign.

Annie Karni contributed to this report.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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