Surprise: Bill Shine resigns as White House communications director

Six communications directors in 26 months has to be a record.

He forgot Jason Miller, who was briefly hired on during the transition as comms chief and then dropped out due to a sex scandal. So, really, we’re now about to see number seven.

This is surprising and not surprising. Not surprising insofar as Trump himself has always been the de facto White House communications director; go figure that the people who nominally hold that job have either found it unfulfilling or ended up pissing off the boss by trying to run things their way, or both. It’s surprising, though, in the sense that I’d seen no rumbles in White House coverage lately that Shine might be on the outs with Trump. This is out of the blue.

Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House eight months ago as President Trump’s top communications adviser, has resigned abruptly, the White House announced Friday…

Shine plans to continue in the Trump orbit as a senior adviser to the president’s 2020 reelection campaign…

The two men had a number of disagreements in recent weeks, said aides, who were granted anonymity to speak freely. Shine, for instance, did not accompany the president on his trip last week to Vietnam for a high-stakes summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Reporters are naturally noticing the coincidence of Shine leaving just a few days after the New Yorker published its splashy expose of the “Fox News White House.” Could there have been something in there that annoyed Trump to the point where he wanted Shine out? Eh, not that I can see. Shine features prominently in the piece as a nexus between the White House and FNC but most of the reporting has to do with him having been an enabler of Roger Ailes, which is old news. There’s no “aha” anecdote in which Shine is caught talking trash about Trump or betraying him in some way that might warrant a sudden termination.

Although there is this:

A source close to Trump says that the President has been complaining that Shine hasn’t been aggressive enough. Late last year, Trump told the source, “Shine promised me my press coverage would get better, but it’s gotten worse.” The source says, “Trump thought he was getting Roger Ailes but instead he got Roger Ailes’s gofer.”

It’s exceedingly Trumpy for POTUS to (a) blame Shine for not being able to better spin the things Trump himself does, says, and tweets, and (b) to have hired on a guy famous for his work at the left’s least favorite cable network and mildly infamous for cleaning up Ailes’s messes as a liaison to the wider liberal media. It’s like making Ilhan Omar the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Don’t be surprised if she doesn’t get results.

Maybe the mundane explanation here is the truth: Shine is out only because, as noted in the excerpt, Trump has a new role for him as senior advisor to the 2020 campaign. That feels like a more comfortable position for a Fox News veteran than White House comms chief, frankly. The White House comms shop mostly plays defense; campaigns play offense, and Fox is exceedingly good at playing offense against Democrats by driving lines of attack.

Although that still leaves us wondering what sort of recent “disagreements” between Trump and Shine could have been so sharp that they led to Shine being uninvited on the North Korea trip, and why Trump would need him to lateral this early in the campaign cycle. Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke haven’t even decided whether to run yet. Oppo produced by the Trump campaign on Dem candidates is unlikely to be a major factor in the primary. Shine could have stayed another nine months and then switched over around New Year’s to start leading the messaging charge against the Dems. Not a single Democratic primary vote will have been cast yet by that point.

This feels more like exile than a true lateral move but we’ll see what the papers can dig up. Exit quotation from CNN: “There had been criticism from people inside the White House questioning what it was that Bill Shine did, or what he had accomplished serving the president.”

Update: Is Shine really going to work for Trump’s campaign or is that more of an honorary title granted to him so that the White House can say he’s making a lateral move, not being fired?