The White House is apparently going to try to engage in squirrel sightings when the coming media whirlwind hits next week with the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.
According to one report, staff around the president aren’t planning any media strategy to set an official message because they know any such plan could very likely be upended with a single tweet from Pres. Trump.
Instead, they are hoping a trip to South America and a trip to Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will keep Trump distracted from the media and interviews with Comey, of which there will be more than plenty. Comey is scheduled to be on ABC for an entire one-hour interview, as well as appearances on MSNBC, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and even the president’s beloved Fox News.
Whether or not this is a smart strategy by the White House is highly questionable and seasoned spokespersons, like George W. Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, warn it’s a risky strategy in trying to ignore the coming blitz.
“The White House should recognize this will be a No. 1 nationwide best-seller. They cannot talk it off the best-seller list,” said former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. “Nothing they do will increase sales for it, they’ll already be sky high. That ship’s sailed. This book is selling, so there’s merit in responding and no downside in responding.”
“This is just so red hot, the White House must respond itself, along with surrogates, but they can’t just rely on surrogates,” he added.
Except as Trump’s staff and the rest of the world has learned, Trump is nothing if not reactionary.
It’s a greater than not chance Trump will set his own messaging as things Comey says in interviews hit Fox News. Any discussion about how to address the book and Comey beforehand is wasted breath and the Trump team hopefully knows it. While Fleischer would be correct in a typical White House with a typical president, that’s not who Trump is and that’s not how he works.
One thing is certain, we are in for a weekslong news cycle of Comey interviews and press conferences where the White House response is fluid and only as veracious as Trump’s most recent tweet makes it so.