Mike Dubke, President Donald Trump’s communications director, has resigned as Trump considers a larger personnel shakeup to confront the growing scandals weighing down his administration.
The veteran GOP strategist resigned in a private meeting with the president on May 18, and Trump accepted immediately, Dubke said in an interview, adding that he offered to stay through the president’s first foreign trip to ensure there was a smooth transition as he exited.
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Dubke, who spoke with POLITICO as he drove into the White House early Tuesday morning, said he expects to go back to Black Rock Group, his communications and public affairs firm. The White House has not announced a successor for Dubke, and it’s unclear when exactly his last day will be. Axios first reported the news of his departure.
“The reasons for my departure are personal, but it has been my great honor to serve President Trump and this administration,” Dubke emailed friends this morning. “It has also been my distinct pleasure to work side-by-side, day-by-day with the staff of the communications and press departments. This White House is filled with some of the finest and hardest working men and women in the American Government.”
Dubke’s exit comes as Trump weighs larger staff changes as he tries to contain the deepening scandals related to ties between Russia and his campaign.
Trump, fresh off his foreign trip, returned to Washington this weekend facing not only congressional probes but the investigation of special prosecutor Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Trump’s associates and Russia as the Kremlin allegedly tried to tip the election Trump’s way.
Beyond Dubke, White House press secretary Sean Spicer is expected to take on a reduced public role, though he is conducting the briefing later on Tuesday. Dubke, who was only on the job for a little over three months, had been a Spicer ally in the White House.
Trump has also been in talks with former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie about taking on more formal roles, possibly in a crisis management function. Trump met with Lewandowski and Bossie in the White House on Monday, and the discussion centered on what role they could play, said one person briefed on the matter.
Trump is also said to have become more frustrated with his son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, who has become the subject of damaging reports alleging that he tried to set up secret communications with the Russians during the transition and failed to disclose multiple meetings with Russian officials.
However, it’s not clear that Trump would remove a family member, and Kushner’s lawyer said he is willing to cooperate with the various investigations into the matter.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday tried to downplay the idea of a staff shake-up and said Dubke has been professional about his departure.
“He has expressed his desire to leave the White House and made very clear that he would see through the president’s international trip and come to work every day and work hard even through that trip,” Conway said.
In a notoriously leak-prone White House, Dubke told POLITICO he was surprised that the news of his planned departure took 12 days to leak out.
A longtime Republican operative and establishment stalwart, Dubke never fit into a White House consumed by chaos. Some questioned why he and not a Trump loyalist was tapped for the communications director job. After being selected for the post, he began telling people in the administration that he never produced TV ads targeting Trump during the 2016 campaign — a move that was designed to reassure loyalists in the White House, but one that left some rankled.
Trump told friends in recent weeks that he was unhappy with Dubke — and that he wondered why he never seemed to get positive press anymore.
As the president dwells on the scandals, the embattled communications wing has emerged as the center of possible change in the White House. It is seen as increasingly likely that Lewandowski and Bossie will take on some functions, though it remains unclear whether they will join the White House or work for Trump as outside advocates. Both have complex business dealings that would need to be untangled should they enter the administration in an official capacity.
The two fit the mold of what Trump is looking for. Both have reputations as cutthroat, hard-charging operatives, and both worked on Trump’s presidential campaign in senior roles. Lewandowski, however, was pushed out as campaign manager after a power struggle with campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
In recent days, the president has told aides he misses being around some of those who worked for him during the campaign and has talked about bringing the crew back together.
Other changes could also be in the works: While Spicer is likely to remain in the White House, Conway, a frequent Trump on-air surrogate, could take on a broader role.