Politics

Ground Game

Five countries in 9 days, but back in the US it’s all about Russia

While President Trump was out of the country, the Russia stories only increased in scope and intensity.
Luca Bruno/Associated Press
While President Trump was out of the country, the Russia stories only increased in scope and intensity.

Beyond whatever foreign policy goals the White House may have set for its first foreign trip, President Trump's team likely had another aim in mind -- moving the Russia investigation out of the news spotlight. 

But during the nine days that Trump was out of the country, the Russia stories only increased in scope and intensity. And the person on the nation's front pages this morning is not a foreign leader like Angela Merkel or even Trump himself, but rather his son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner.

After the Washington Post reported Friday that Kusher had tried to forge a secret back-channel with the Russians -- using that country's communications devices -- the headlines have been all about Kushner and the Russians.

Some Republicans, such as US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker are not going after Kushner. Others, such as US Senator John McCain, have no problem doing so.

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Regardless, unlike other embattled Trump officials, such Mike Flynn or Sean Spicer, Kushner's position is more complicated because he is Trump's family. 

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But beyond the delicate political dance involving Kushner is this harsh political reality: Trump cannot shake the waves of the investigation into the Russian government's alleged involvement in his presidential campaign last year.

As Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report said on Meet the Press this weekend, "I think what we're learning is we don't know that there's a fire. But there is a whole lot of smoke. And that cloud is blocking everything."

What's the cloud blocking? How about the president's agenda to repeal the Affordable Care Act, pass his budget, put together tax reform and infrastructure spending bills, to name a few. 

Trump may have hoped that his first foreign trip would serve as a reset. Indeed, in his 2016 campaign, Trump proved to be a master of shifting the political conversation. But so far in his presidency, he has been unable to change the subject. 

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