White House

Trump is a one-man war room on impeachment inquiry

Kellyanne Conway: No need to replicate Clinton response team

A coalition of progressive activist groups, including MoveOn.org, hold a rally at the Capitol after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump has no plans to hire a team of lawyers and communicators to fire back at House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, aides say. Instead, he’s already acting as a one-man war room.

Several White House officials signaled Friday the president had little interest in building a rapid-reaction team like President Bill Clinton did when he faced impeachment. Then, senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway used a combative gaggle outside the West Wing to all but confirm that.

“They had felonies on Clinton,” she said during a half-hour session of jousting and bickering with reporters following a television appearance. 

But some senior House Democrats and legal experts contend the president might have violated federal law when he suggested to then-incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he should investigate 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and son Hunter for the son’s work with an Ukrainian energy firm that the president suggests was nefarious and the former vice president’s efforts to force out a Ukrainian prosecutor; the Bidens have never been formally accused of wrongdoing.

[‘Sick man’: Trump team’s counter-impeachment strategy comes into focus]

Trump and his team have slowly rolled out their counter-impeachment strategy after being caught somewhat flatfooted last Tuesday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California launched a formal impeachment inquiry. She has since said the president’s ask of a “favor” — the Biden probe — on the July 25 call with Zelensky left her “no choice” because he allegedly was seeking a personal political benefit from a foreign government with the implication that U.S. military aid would dry up.

That strategy could be described as letting Trump be Trump. He is as blunt as ever on Twitter, with a handful of inner-circle surrogates — including several conservative lawmakers — supplementing his message.

The president referred over the weekend to several Jewish House Democrats and the so-called “squad” — all minority women — as “savages” in one tweet.

On Sunday evening and Monday morning, as he did late last week, he criticized House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California, who is leading Democrats’s efforts, particularly for Schiff’s qualified interpretation on Thursday of the Trump-Zelenskiy call.

“It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call,” wrote Trump, who then added this: “Arrest for Treason?”

Trump has been accused of politicizing his Justice Department, and Attorney General William P. Barr has been criticized for being a willing participant.

The president is breaking with Clinton in another way as he leads his own war room. The 42nd president mostly referred reporters to his legal team during his impeachment saga; but the 45th is going directly after the an intelligence community whistleblower and other accusers. 

Despite team Trump’s statements about it, the complaint aligns very closely to Trump’s words on the call in the summary it released the previous day.

[Whistleblower raises new questions for appeals court nominee]

“The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up,” he wrote in another Monday morning tweet.

That came after Trump on Sunday tweeted he wants to “meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION.”

He then threatened to punish those who raised concerns that he, in their eyes, sought foreign help in a domestic election then his staff orchestrated a cover up to protect him.

“Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President?” Trump wrote before promising “Big Consequences!”

On a Sunday call with House Democrats, Pelosi urged them to stay professional.

“The idea that this has anything to do with whether you like him or not, forget that. That’s about the election,” she said, according to an aide who was on the call. “This is about the Constitution.”

Trump GOP surrogates like Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina deployed Sunday to say Trump did nothing wrong.

“What I have a problem with is what the Democrats are doing," Jordan said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” criticizing the whistleblower for coming forward with “no first-hand knowledge.”

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