WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's senior staff, energized by recent Republican wins in South Carolina and Georgia, urged the president not to talk about the Russia investigation during his Wednesday night speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, one top official told NBC News.
He didn't, but by the time the sun rose on Thursday morning, the president was back on Twitter and focused on the one thing his advisers wished he wouldn't.
Trump trashed the Democratic National Committee for turning down DHS offers to protect them from hacks — “it’s all a big Dem HOAX!” — and wondered why the Obama administration did nothing to stop alleged Russian meddling if they were “working so hard on the 2016 Election.”
Advisers believe the president and administration have some accomplishments they can point to and don't want attention to the Russia probe to distract from that.
And just minutes before his Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was set to take the podium Thursday for an off-camera briefing with reporters, Trump tweeted about the “tapes” he tweeted about over 40 days earlier when he raised questions about whether he had recordings of his conversations with then-FBI director James Comes. “I did not make, and do not have any such recording,” the tweet read.
In Iowa, where Trump addressed supporters at a campaign-style rally for well over an hour, he repeatedly deviated from the Teleprompter. At one point, he tried to explain to the crowd why he had multi-millionaires, including Gary Cohn, former of Goldman Sachs, serving in his administration. In short, Trump said it was because he didn't want a "poor person" in charge of the nation's economy.
The adviser said aides found some parts of the president's speech "cringe worthy."
The senior White House official, who agreed to speak anonymously in order to discuss internal White House thinking, said the administration believes they if can succeed in their agenda, Republicans will be able to string together election victories because Democrats have no plan beyond “dump Trump.”
Even after months of a president who’s been loathe to change the say-anything tactics that he believes helped win him the presidency, staffers are still hopeful that he can stop the distractions and noise and home in on policy.