New White House strategy: Deny collusion, attack Cohen, hope Trump stays cool

Trump picked a fight with John Brennan
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tuesday evening brought a deluge of brutal news for President Trump — his campaign chairman and longtime lawyer both became convicts, and the lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated Trump in a federal crime, among other events. But until early Thursday morning, Trump seemed relatively calm, and "the White House morphed into the uneasy eye of a political hurricane, testing Trump with each block of cable television," The Washington Post reports, citing three advisers.

"The mood inside the White House was grim," The New York Times adds. "But there remained a pervasive belief, rightly or wrongly, that things have looked this bad before." Still, advisers "admitted they had no strategy for countering the news" about Cohen's fingering Trump and no plan "to put a spin on the conviction of Paul Manafort."

The goal now is to highlight that the convictions have nothing to do with Russia or collusion, the Post notes, while Trump's outside legal team "is planning to ramp up its attacks against Cohen," shopping around old recordings of Cohen saying Trump didn't know about his hush payments to former purported mistresses. On Wednesday night, The Wall Street Journal said Cohen's story was corroborated by National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who gave details to federal prosecutors and said Trump knew. Early Thursday, Trump tweeted:

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Earlier, Trump's "relative calm — contrasted with his more typical lashing out when he is anxious — unnerved some of his aides," the Times reports, and friends "pointed out that he has never been as cornered — or as isolated — as he is right now, and that he is at his most dangerous when he feels backed against the wall." The Post heard similar concerns: "Several Trump allies said that the president's relative calm on Wednesday was something that would probably pass soon — and they are worried about what the next stage could mean for him and Republicans."

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