White House Plans to Add 2 Aides to Fight Impeachment of Trump

Looking to strengthen its response to the impeachment inquiry initiated by House Democrats against President Trump, the White House has hired two officials to help manage its public efforts to defend the president, officials said on Wednesday.

A senior government official confirmed that Tony Sayegh, a Republican strategist and a former aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Pam Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida, are expected to join the White House to work on impeachment messaging and other special projects.

The two are expected to have temporary roles and will join as special government employees, the official said.

The moves were made even as Mr. Trump continues to publicly play down his concern about the inquiry, which next week for the first time will include the public testimony of witnesses.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the need for the type of “war room” structure used by aides to President Bill Clinton during his impeachment battle in the late 1990s. But others around the president are less certain that the current structure around Mr. Trump can withstand the intensity of the coming weeks.

That includes Republicans in Congress, who will be faced with voting on articles of impeachment, and who have repeatedly complained that the White House has provided little clarity on a response to Democrats. Among other potential benefits, aides to Mr. Trump hope bringing on additional personnel will placate those critics.

Mr. Sayegh, who left the administration less than six months ago to work for the firm Teneo, was pushed for the job by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, who wanted to add him to the communications team, according to three people briefed on the events. Mr. Kushner is directing key aspects of the White House response to the impeachment inquiry.

Ms. Bondi, with her legal background, has been seen by some of the president’s aides as a good choice to appear on television on Mr. Trump’s behalf. She is a personal favorite of Mr. Trump.

Their exact roles remain to be seen, including what other special projects they might work on. As special government employees, they are limited to working at the White House no more than 130 days, suggesting that the plan is not for either of them to stay on in the long term.

It also remains to be seen how effective any hires can be, given that Mr. Trump prefers conducting his own orchestra and never takes kindly to being treated as if he must be managed.

The impeachment inquiry has unfolded around the fallout from Mr. Trump’s withholding of military aid approved by Congress for Ukraine even as he pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden, a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., for his work for a Ukrainian firm while his father was vice president.

Mr. Trump has preferred to conduct his own messaging effort, carrying it out on the White House lawn as he walks toward Marine One or on his Twitter feed. He has repeatedly denounced impeachment as a “witch hunt,” and insisted that he did nothing wrong. His call with the president of Ukraine on July 25 in which he mentioned the Bidens was “perfect,” he has said.

In private conversations in the weeks immediately after the inquiry was announced, Mr. Trump sounded deeply frustrated, suggesting that Republicans were not properly defending him and that they should be arguing publicly that he did nothing wrong.

More recently, Mr. Trump has sounded resigned to the inquiry — unhappy that he has to face it, but viewing it as a political battle he will have to wage, according to two advisers.

The White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, is taking on a greater role in the impeachment fight than Mr. Trump’s private lawyers, a contrast to what took place during the two years of investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

But White House officials view the impeachment inquiry through the lens of the Mueller investigation, and see it as less of an existential threat. They also are planning to use a similar playbook — undermining the inquiry, questioning its legitimacy, suggesting witnesses have long-held biases against Mr. Trump.

What is different between the Mueller inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russian officials in 2016 and the impeachment effort is that the Mueller investigation never found direct evidence of a conspiracy between Mr. Trump and Russians.

By contrast, Democrats see the phone call between Mr. Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as a smoking gun, a view that has been bolstered by several witnesses and will be crucial to the case they make against the president.

Source Link

Get more stuff like this

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.