White House press secretary Sean Spicer is leading a search for his own replacement at the briefing room podium as part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications operations, according to two people with knowledge of the effort.
Last week, Spicer and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reached out to Fox News personality Laura Ingraham about the role of press secretary and Daily Mail editor David Martosko about the role of communications director, according to a White House official.
Spicer and Priebus have had preliminary discussions with Ingraham and Martosko met with chief strategist Steve Bannon last week, according to the White House official.
Ingraham declined to comment. In a phone call, Martosko said “I can’t hear you,” and then hung up. He did not respond to an e-mail inquiry.
FOX News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was considered for press secretary during the transition, is not interested in the position and has not been interviewed, according to the people familiar with the effort.
The search for new members of the White House communications team comes after Mike Dubke resigned from the communications director job last month, and Spicer once again took on dual roles as the White House faces numerous scandals, including the deepening Russia probes.
Trump has been quick to blame his communications shop for his administration’s troubles, with the president and senior staff expressing their displeasure with the way Spicer and Dubke handled the response in the hours following the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to two White House sources.
Despite the abrupt nature of the firing, Spicer and Dubke caught heat for failing to line up surrogates to go on television and for not having talking points that called out the hypocrisy of Democrats, who criticized Comey when he was investigating Hillary Clinton.
As Trump has continued to lash out at his communications team amid the intensifying investigations, the White House has pulled back from daily on-camera press briefings, with Spicer and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders increasingly conducting gaggles with reporters that include no cameras and no audio.
Sanders on Monday confirmed that interviews are underway for new members of the communications team.
“We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation,” Sanders said. “As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office.”
Sanders, however, has told people that she doesn’t want the job of press secretary, according to a source close to her.
And as Spicer interviews job candidates, he has been pushing to move into a new role senior to both the communications director and press secretary, according to the people familiar with the discussions.
“Spicer should be elevated and if he’s not, I would not blame him for leaving,” said the White House official. “The president owes him this much for all he’s done for him. Sean is indispensable and I think the president knows that.”
Despite his push for an elevated job, Spicer has appeared to be sidelined at times in recent weeks. He accompanied the president on his foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe in May, but wasn’t included among staffers who joined Trump at his meeting with the Pope—an oversight widely regarded as a slight for the devout Catholic.
Since Trump’s return, Spicer has shared the briefing responsibilities with Sanders.
But it’s not clear when or if dramatic changes to the communications shop will occur. An adviser to Trump said the president hasn’t yet signed off on making changes to the communications shop.
“Until you have the president buying in, any outreach or talk, is just that,” this person said.
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