It's that time again — time to speculate about who might inherit one of the toughest jobs in Washington: communications director of the Trump White House.
Who could be next? Here is a semi-serious list of possible candidates:
The White House director of strategic communications is probably the most natural pick. Schlapp is experienced; she was working in the George W. Bush White House press shop when Hicks was still in middle school. Schlapp is also versatile. Although she works mostly behind the scenes these days, the former Fox News Channel contributor is comfortable defending Trump on camera.
One potential downside: As I mentioned, Trump's communications directors tend not to last long. A breakup with Schlapp could be more complicated than with, say, Mike Dubke (remember him?) because Schlapp's husband, Matt Schlapp, heads the American Conservative Union and organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
Trump's relationship with CPAC has improved significantly since he skipped the event in 2016, believing he was “too controversial.” He may not want to risk souring relations with the Schlapps by putting Mercedes in a role that seems to always have a looming expiration date.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
There is no reason to think that Sanders will leave her out-front role as White House press secretary, but she could double as communications director — for a while, at least. That's what Spicer did before and after Dubke's tenure, so there is precedent for such an arrangement.
The counselor to the president was a rumored replacement for Anthony Scaramucci last summer and was offered the job of press secretary before Trump took office. That Conway has not wound up in the press shop could be an indication that she just doesn't want to be there. Yet she is one of a shrinking number of veteran aides whom Trump trusts, and if the president said he needed her as communications director, could she say no?
Miller, now a CNN commentator, is the guy Trump wanted to be communications director in the first place. Two days after accepting the job, however, Miller abruptly quit, saying that he needed to focus on his family and that it was “not the right time to start a new job as demanding as White House communications director.” It would make sense for the White House to at least check in with Miller to see if the timing might be better now.
Trump's original campaign manager never really left the president's orbit. Politico reported Thursday that “tension between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's office and Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is escalating over his ongoing access and influence over Trump. Sources close to the White House say Kelly's team believes Lewandowski does more harm than good at this point and needs to be cut off.”
Perhaps Kelly will win this battle. But if Trump, feeling the pressure of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation, wants to surround himself with his most ardent loyalists, it would not be shocking to see Lewandowski back in an official capacity.
The former “Fox & Friends” cast member is a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and could be in the running, according to Axios's Jonathan Swan, who reports that she is “very well-liked in the White House.” Swan quoted a White House official who said, “With all the stink attached to the State Department, she's one person who all the Trump people know is a Trump person.”
Then again, Nauert says nice things about “talented journalists,” so she might not fit in.
The Newsmax chief executive is a longtime friend of the president. “We’ve had many frank discussions where we disagreed,” Ruddy told The Washington Post last year, “and it hasn’t changed the nature of our relationship one iota.”
Fans of “The Apprentice” might remember Miller as Trump's taciturn receptionist on the reality-TV show. These days, Miller is senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Trump Organization. She would be an unconventional selection but, like Hicks, she has been entrusted with a prominent communications job at a young age and is someone Trump has known for a long time.
In a 2013 profile, Patch reported that “she met Trump and his family while working as a 15-year-old waitress at Trump National Golf Course in Westchester, N.Y., where Miller grew up. She made such a good impression that he hired her two weeks after she graduated from URI's textiles, fashion merchandising and design program.”
John Barron/John Miller
These are the phony names Trump occasionally employed in business, when posing as his own spokesman in telephone interviews. Their inclusion on this list is a joke, of course — but also a serious reminder that Trump likes to take a very hands-on approach to his media messaging. Whoever gets the title, Trump is ultimately his own communications director.