By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This was supposed to be “Infrastructure Week” for U.S. President Donald Trump, a time to unveil a long-promised plan to create jobs by revitalizing America’s roads and bridges.
Instead, the White House careened from crisis to crisis, with Trump’s chief of staff fighting for his job, a mass shooting at a school in Florida, a fierce immigration battle on Capitol Hill and a report that a former Playboy model had an affair with Trump over a decade ago.
It was capped by news that the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with conducting an operation aimed at sowing political divisions and undermining democracy in the United States, including by meddling in the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Trump and his aides spent Friday behind closed doors after the charges were announced by U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The president emerged late on Friday to go to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the weekend.
His itinerary originally included an infrastructure-related event at which he had planned to tout his record on creating jobs. It was canceled after 17 people were killed on Wednesday at a high school not far from his resort.
Traveling with Trump to Florida was his chief of staff John Kelly, who has been criticized for how he handled the case of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who has been accused of domestic violence by two former wives.
Porter resigned last week as a furor erupted over his working under a temporary security clearance that gave him access to classified information, in the absence of a final security clearance.
Kelly issued a memo to White House staff on Friday ordering tighter procedures for security clearances.
“Kelly has no credibility left with the staff,” said one Trump confidant from outside the White House who asked not to be identified.
Trump has been sounding out friends on potential Kelly replacements. Among possibilities are economic adviser Gary Cohn and Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, the source said.
Release of Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal was overshadowed by the Porter controversy, then by a failed push in the U.S. Senate to overhaul immigration laws, and a scathing report from an inspector general investigation into travel expenses of senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Friday, New Yorker magazine reported that Trump had an affair with a former Playboy model at about the same time in 2006 that he was allegedly involved with an adult-film star.
The White House declined to comment on the story.
Trump and his wife, Melania, traveled separately to Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews for the flight to Florida, thus there were no photographs of them walking together to the Marine One helicopter on the White House South Lawn.
The first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, attributed their separate arrivals at the base to a scheduling issue.
Trump extended a thumbs-up to reporters as he walked to the Marine One helicopter and ignored a flood of questions about the week that was.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Toni Reinhold)