White House

White House, GOP allies shift to Clintonesque counterimpeachment message

‘Pelosi won’t bring those bills to the floor because she is infatuated with impeachment,’ WH spox says

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., talk as they arrive for a press conference at the Capitol on May 9. Cheney accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “neutered” the Intelligence Committee because of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House and its Republican allies on Thursday slightly shifted their counterimpeachment messaging to one that more closely resembles that of President Bill Clinton’s West Wing messaging during his own House investigation.

Former aides to the 42nd president have offered free advice to the Trump White House for several weeks, suggesting the 45th chief executive and his top administration aides focus on what President Donald Trump is still trying to accomplish to benefit Americans in their everyday lives.

“John Podesta, the chief of staff, had made clear, using quite colorful language, that he didn’t want people talking about impeachment. Not in meetings, not at the proverbial water cooler and especially not out in public, even with family and friends,” Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart wrote in an Oct. 3 op-ed.

“We survived the process because we were disciplined about keeping the president out of the impeachment debate,” wrote Lockhart, who since has given interviews suggesting Trump and Co. talk about legislative goals and other things they are working on — anything but House Democrats’ investigation.

[ANALYSISOften-talkative Trump goes quiet amid impeachment testimony, slowing economy]

The president continued Thursday using his Twitter account to attack Democrats, the investigation and administration witnesses who have given the House Intelligence Committee information this week that appears to corroborate an intelligence committee whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July 25 call during which he requested Ukraine’s new president investigate top U.S. Democrats.

Minutes after the House — on a mostly party-line (232-196) vote in which all but two Democrats voted in favor while Republicans were unanimously opposed  — approved a measure authorizing the next phase of the impeachment inquiry, the president weighed in — as he has all week — with a tweet, writing: “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

About 40 minutes earlier, he offered this, without supporting evidence: “The Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market. The Do Nothing Democrats don’t care!”

Though a dig at Democrats, Trump’s message in that tweet mirrored what some of his top aides and GOP lawmakers were saying and tweeting on Thursday: The investigation is preventing work on policy matters and harming the economy — and, by extension, the American public.

“The House deserves better, the people of this country deserve better. We should be tackling real problems,” House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana told reporters following the much-anticipated impeachment vote.

“We could have lower prescription drug prices today, but Pelosi won’t bring those bills to the floor because she is infatuated with impeachment. Our troops could be properly funded, but [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi is infatuated with impeachment,” Scalise said. “In fact, we could have better trade relations with Canada and Mexico and create 160,000 new jobs today, but Pelosi is infatuated with impeachment. We deserve better.”

The new message came from White House officials, as well.

Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s press secretary, issued a statement Thursday afternoon contending Trump “has done nothing wrong” and again declaring Democrats’ inquiry “illegitimate.”

Later, she appeared on Fox News to criticize House Democrats for stalling the legislative agenda — even though there was little sign before the inquiry that much more than spending bills and perhaps Trump’s proposed trade agreement with Canada and Mexico would get floor time the rest of the fast-disappearing 2019 legislative session.

“Look, for two weeks now that Congress has been in session the Dems have been stomping their feet, and plugging their ears, and crying and screaming the word impeachment, like … children,” she said. “And for the last two weeks, the president has been working. He’s been speaking with foreign leaders. He traveled to another state and got a bipartisan award on all of his work with criminal justice reform. He did an event where he honored law enforcement officers. He, as I said, authorized and killed the founder and leader of ISIS.”

“This president will continue to work,” said the press secretary who in recent days has called her boss a “genius,” before adding: “he is a tough president but he’s getting results for the American people.”

Back at the Capitol, House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming accused Pelosi, because of the authorities the impeachment measure handed the Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, of having “completely neutered” that panel.

[Impeachment news roundup: More insider testimony behind closed doors]

“What she did today was she said she is going to take the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, which is arguably the single most important committee when it comes to our oversight when it comes to the national security of this nation, and she has told them stop all focus on any issue that has anything to do with the national security of the nation.

“You saw Democrats on the floor of the House arguing that somehow it was Republicans who were putting politics above national security. There is no one who has done that the way that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff have done that,” Cheney said. “History will hold him accountable, history will judge them.”

For their part, Democrats defended both their inquiry and the measure they passed on the floor.

“No person — Republican or Democrat, president or anyone else — should be permitted to jeopardize America’s security and reputation for self-serving political purposes,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters. “No president, no official can demand that an ally of the United States do anything in particular to help his or her political ambitions as a condition of receiving help from our country.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York said the inquiry “is about right versus wrong,” adding members “have a constitutional responsibility to follow the facts, apply the law, be guided by the Constitution, and present the evidence of wrongdoing to the American people.”

“The impeachment inquiry is about abuse of power,” he said of Trump and personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani allegedly pressing Ukraine’s leaders to search for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “It’s about betrayal, it’s about corruption.”

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