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DEBRA J. SAUNDERS: The silence of Trump’s aides

WASHINGTON — There is a price to pay when a U.S. president communicates mostly through his Twitter account, off-the-cuff responses to shouted questions and the rare press conference given in concert with a foreign leader. And that cost is decreased credibility.

It’s odd because, in many ways, President Donald Trump is more accessible than any modern president. He often takes questions when the White House press pool pops into the Oval Office or as he heads out of town. But as he talks more often, he says less — or he repeats the same lines you’ve heard over and over again.

This is not optimal, as Trump faces a House impeachment “inquiry” — as Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it — because one rarely makes killer arguments on Twitter or with Marine One cranking up in the background.

With a different White House, there would be a war room ready to lay out Trump’s case against the impeachment machine, and that team would be ready with rapid response.

The White House would be answering questions, briefing the press corps and calling attention to the origins of the Russian probe, explaining why Trump believes Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and the thinking behind Trump’s July suggestion that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s position on the board of the country’s largest natural gas company, Burisma.

Instead, there’s a team of one, repeating himself.

And repeating himself in an echo chamber of conservative-only media with minimal effort to draw support from outside the base.

Trump likes to think he is his best spokesperson. But at this point, his bursts of angry words — “coup,” “hoax,” “treason” — are just noise. Actually, they are inaccurate noise that hangs the impeachment issue on him, not the presidency.

On his way to Marine One on Thursday morning, Trump actually told reporters that he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens — which is what put him in the impeachment zone in the first place. And he added China.

So later in the day, it was a relief to watch Vice President Mike Pence give an expanded answer from Arizona. Pence replied that he and Trump were elected in part to “drain the swamp, and I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.”

Pence smartly referred to Hunter Biden’s $50,000-a-month salary as his father ostensibly was leading the Obama administration’s efforts to stanch corruption in Ukraine — because it does look swampy when Hunter Biden rates such princely compensation.

It was a thoughtful answer with more than one facet — and for that alone it stood out.

USA Today found that Trump has ratcheted up his tweet volume to 500 in September. That’s twice his monthly average for 2018. There are more tweets than ever, but does anyone feel more informed?

No wonder people tell me that they are starting to tune out.

I get that a lot of readers hate the media, they don’t miss the showmanship of the daily White House briefings and they don’t want to hear why Trump would be better served having a press secretary or somebody who articulates what the administration is thinking in real time.

But who can argue that Twitter posts with nasty nicknames and helicopter banter are going to unify the country?

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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