As President Trump urged yet another foreign government to investigate one of his political rivals – this time in full view — White House aides and allies of the President’s let out another collective sigh.
Democrats quickly seized on the comments as yet more evidence to bolster their case for impeachment, and White House officials and Trump allies privately expressed dismay that Trump was making matters worse for himself.
White House officials have been largely sidelined as the President and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani take command of the anti-impeachment narrative, at times driving the news cycle in ways White House allies believe hurt the President’s case – or, at a minimum, make his position harder to defend – administration officials and sources close to the White House said.
The comments are at least in part a result of the lack of a formal communications strategy from the White House to handle the impeachment inquiry and a President convinced he is his own best messenger, even when it causes his aides to cringe.
Here’s what’s happening behind the scenes: White House officials have begun to “unwind” the timeline and circumstances surrounding the President’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one White House official said.
The goal, according to the official, is to ensure the White House has a full picture of the events in hand as it fields inquiries from Congress and prepares to build the President’s defense to impeachment. The effort has involved lawyers in the White House counsel’s office and Situation Room staff who are involved in connecting the President with foreign leaders and compiling a record of those calls.
Also, Trump and top officials, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, have dismissed the need for a war room to bolster the White House’s response to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, as President Bill Clinton’s White House established when he faced impeachment.
Who’s in charge of strategy: Officials said Kushner and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are the officials most focused on developing an impeachment strategy.
While some said Kushner was in charge of the strategy, others said Mulvaney was at the helm.
“He’s the President’s senior adviser,” one administration official said of Kushner. “Of course he’s important, but in no way is he running this.”