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Politics White House struggles to get in sync on impeachment

01:40  12 november  2019
01:40  12 november  2019 Source:   thehill.com

Analysis: How 'do us a favor' led to Trump impeachment inquiry

  Analysis: How 'do us a favor' led to Trump impeachment inquiry How we got here is something of a play in three acts, involving machinations by Ukrainians, Trump and Democrats in turn, with the fourth act to be written. ___THE BLACK EARTHUkraine is a land of dark, fertile soil where corruption and assorted American conspiracy theories have taken root along with the wheat and cabbage. Trump's preoccupation with Joe Biden and his son Hunter flourished there.A true if flawed democracy on Russia's doorstep, Ukraine in 2014 ushered out a pro-Russian leader who tolerated corruption and replaced him with an anti-Russian leader who tolerated somewhat less corruption.

A White House that has repeatedly struggled to get in sync is sending messages of disharmony days before the first televised public impeachment hearings, which are expected to highlight the divide in the administration over President Trump' s effor.

As the House ’ s impeachment inquiry extends into its fifth week, the Trump Administration is struggling to overcome a series of setbacks lobbed by “There needs to be a strategy that the House Republicans, the Senate Republicans and the White House are in sync .” Since the inquiry began

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A White House that has repeatedly struggled to get in sync is sending messages of disharmony days before the first televised public impeachment hearings, which are expected to highlight the divide in the administration over President Trump's efforts in Ukraine.

The scattershot White House messaging and strategy is nothing new in and of itself. GOP lawmakers and some outside allies have repeatedly criticized the administration for failing to get on the same page.

But things don't appear to be improving in the hours before House committees prepare to receive public testimony from officials who are expected to offer damaging accounts of efforts by the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to press for investigations by Ukraine. The hearings are likely to receive wall-to-wall coverage on cable news.

Trump's use of his own megaphone to drive the message against impeachment has at times undermined arguments coming from his White House and Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

And in a confusing move, Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, on Friday joined a lawsuit that names Trump - his boss - as one of the defendants. Mulvaney is seeking a court order on whether he must comply with congressional subpoenas. The party already on the lawsuit, former National Security Council official Charles Kupperman, opposed his effort in a filing Monday.

The move came absent explanation from the White House and marked a different approach from other executive branch officials who have defied subpoenas without seeking a court's judgment. Mulvaney, viewed as a central figure in the administration's decisions with respect to Ukraine, evaded a subpoena for testimony last week.

Jack Sharman, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and former special counsel to Congress during the Whitewater investigation, said Mulvaney seemed to be acting as "an individual" and doubted it came as part of a broader, concerted strategy by the White House.

"The more advisable course would be presumably for the White House counsel's office and maybe the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ to weigh in more for institutional reasons rather than having individual staff members, however senior, seek guidance on their own accord," he said.

The impeachment process itself has laid bare the fractures within the White House, something public testimony this week is likely to further underscore.

Newly released testimony has shown how then-national security adviser John Bolton was deeply critical of Mulvaney's involvement in the Trump administration's foreign policy machinations toward Ukraine. Bolton described Mulvaney as participating in a "drug deal" with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: White House struggles to get in synch on impeachment © Aaron Schwartz White House struggles to get in synch on impeachment Fiona Hill, a former Russia expert for Trump's National Security Council, described butting heads with Sondland when he asserted authority over Ukraine matters.

And officials who testified in recent weeks overwhelmingly expressed unease with the involvement of Giuliani in the administration's dealings with Ukraine.

Revelations about those fights shared space with stories about a new book from former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that says she refused to take part in efforts by former chief of staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to go around Trump.

While the Haley allegations said little about the specific impeachment charges confronting Trump, they highlighted how officials within the administration have often been at odds with one another and that some officials working with Trump were uncomfortable with his decisions or policies.

In preparation for the public phase of impeachment, the White House has brought on former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) and former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh to lead communications efforts on impeachment, but Trump's own comments over the last week call into question how much that will matter.

One former White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity argued the messaging out of the White House has improved in recent days and that there hasn't been a major error since Mulvaney's October press conference during which he undermined a key talking point by acknowledging a quid pro quo in the administration's interactions with Ukraine.

"It does seem like they've kind of gotten a little sharper with their messaging and a little more aggressive in the last week or so," the former official said. "Realistically speaking, it's going to be a scattered approach."

Republicans have complained for weeks about the lack of cohesion in the White House messaging apparatus. Trump's own difficult-to-predict statements have only highlighted those concerns.

On Friday, Trump declared there should not be public hearings because he believes the impeachment inquiry is a "hoax." The comment cut against a concerted effort among Republicans on Capitol Hill and advisers at the White House to criticize the lack of transparency in the process thus far.

Trump on Saturday suggested Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) be called to testify in the impeachment inquiry, an unrealistic request that may have detracted from the actual Republican witness list.

The president on Monday accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of releasing "doctored" transcripts, a baseless claim that no Republican has backed up.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Monday said the White House and House Republicans who will be able to question witnesses are "on the same page," but did not offer specifics on how or whether they had coordinated.

Still, some allies point to Trump's ability to evade significant political consequences during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as proof that there may be a method to the president's mercurial tendencies.

"When you look at his ability to push back on the Russia narrative ... I don't want to say he was a one-man operation, but he almost single-handedly did that with a small handful of capable surrogates," said one source with direct knowledge of the president's thinking. "That being said, this is a little different."

The White House or the campaign is expected to begin circulating talking points to television surrogates as hearings get underway, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Current and former officials also pointed to the addition of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to the House Intelligence Committee as a potentially significant development for the president's defense. Jordan is one of Trump's fiercest defenders and will now be able to question witnesses during public hearings.

Some outside allies of the president have also sought to step in to help. Former chief strategist Stephen Bannon launched a podcast to take matters into his own hands to bolster the defense of the president, and Giuliani is reportedly considering doing the same.

Current and former Trump advisers have highlighted those outside efforts as evidence there is plenty of support to go around as the president faces down the most consequential fight of his time in office.

"I think whether it's Steve or anyone else, I think the more soldiers the president has fighting on his behalf, the better it is for the president," said the former White House official. "It's all hands on deck."

Takeaways so far from House public impeachment hearings .
In several hours of testimony, and even bickering among lawmakers, some memorable moments have emerged. In several hours of testimony, and even bickering among lawmakers, some memorable moments have emerged.

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