As President Trump Returns to U.S., Efforts to Counter Russia Probe Fallout Intensify

President Donald Trump returned to the U.S. on Saturday after a week-long trip which took in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe.

On his first official foreign trip the president avoided major gaffes, focusing on key foreign policy objectives such as cementing alliances in the Middle East, and pressing European leaders to contribute more to the Nato budget. Experts declared the trip, by and large, a success.

In his absence, however, controversy has continued to swirl around his administration back home, concerning alleged collusion between members of his campaign team and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The claims have cast a shadow over his fledgling presidency, and are the subject of congressional and FBI investigations.

On Friday, there were more negative headlines for the Trump administration, as The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser, had sought to establish a secret back channel enabling the White House to communicate with Russia and evade scrutiny from U.S. officials and lawmakers. Reportedly present at the meeting was Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, fired in February for misleading senior administration officials, including the vice president, about his contacts with Russian officials.

Read more: Why Jared Kushner reportedly wanted a secret channel for Trump to talk to Putin

Reports that the FBI has now turned its attention to Kushner—though he is reportedly not the formal subject of a probe or the target of a criminal investigation—mean the investigation has reached the White House, increasing pressure on the Trump administration.

Despite Trump's repeated denials that his team colluded with Russia, former CIA director John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 23 that the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin is "well-founded."

President Donald Trump arrived to pose for a family photo with participants of the G7 summit during the Summit of the Heads of State and of Governments of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017. Reuters

As the investigation tightens around the White House, team Trump is reportedly considering a range of measures to counter the flow of damaging headlines that have emerged—drawing up legal contingency plans, and getting back on the front foot.

Senior administration officials told The Wall Street Journal that Trump is considering major staff changes at the White House, and having lawyers vet his tweets.

Among the other measures on the table is adding an outside roster of lawyers to deal with the ramifications of the probe, according to the report.

Pugnacious Attorney Marc Kasowitz has been appointed as the president's private attorney while the Russia investigation is conducted, and will reportedly help to coordinate the legal response to the allegations.

Administration officials told Reuters Friday that Trump strategist and former Breitbart News editor Steve Bannon will be involved alongside Kushner in a special White House "war room" set up to push back against claims of complicity between the Trump camp and Russia.

Read more: How Trump, Bannon and Kushner are putting together a "war room" to push back against the Russia probe

The issue is reportedly of increased concern to the Trump administration following the Justice Department's appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel responsible for leading the Russia investigation.

Trump's decision to fire former director James Comey sparked criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, and prompted the appointment of Mueller. Trump allegedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kislyak in a meeting in the White House that he thought Comey was a "nut job," whose firing eased pressure from the investigation.

With the launch of a special investigation, Trump aides are in shakier legal territory, and could face criminal charges for deleting messages deemed relevant to the investigation, Politico reported.

With calls for the president's impeachment reaching the floor of Congress last week, experts have upgraded the chances of Trump being removed from office before his term is up from "low" to "moderate." But with the Mueller investigation only just underway, and Trump continuing to fiercely deny his team colluded with Moscow, the story is far from over.