White House looking at potential staff additions to aid impeachment battle: Sources
OlegAlbinsky/iStock(WASHINGTON) — To combat the growing impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats, senior White House officials and multiple outside advisers close to the president have been discussing options to create top-level posts inside the administration specifically designed to deal with impeachment-related matters, multiple sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.
Sources say one idea being discussed is to add an arm to the communications operation who will specifically deal with impeachment matters.
So far, former Treasury Department spokesperson Tony Sayegh has been described as a potential option for that role as sources say he is a trusted veteran of the Trump administration. Sayegh did not respond when contacted by ABC News.
Another option being discussed is to add a lawyer to the team who would serve in a spokesperson-like role. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a longtime friend of the president who campaigned with him aggressively during the elections, has been approached for that role, according to aides close to the president.
That role was initially designed for former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy. Despite being announced as having joined the team, sources say Gowdy is unlikely to aide in the president’s defense given restrictions on lobbying for past members of Congress, among other issues.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say the options are the results of extensive meetings held at the White House earlier this week that included the president’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and counsel Pat Cippilone, among others top aides and advisers. In recent weeks, Kushner has taken an expanded role relating to the impeachment probe.
The potential moves suggest the White House has recognized a need for a stronger offense, despite push-back last month by the president himself to create any war room operation.
So far, House Democrats have subpoenaed dozens of individuals and agencies for documents, records and, in some cases, testimony.
Almost a dozen current and former state department officials have participated in closed-door depositions with the key committees leading the impeachment inquiry into the president related to matters involving Ukraine.
The potential staff additions were first reported by The New York Times.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who pushed the White House this week to ramp up an impeachment push-back strategy in the mold of former President Bill Clinton’s own war room, said Thursday that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told him he is doing just that.
Graham has criticized the Trump administration for not having a more sophisticated messaging strategy that would also enable the president to focus, as Clinton did, on governing.
“They should have a team that speaks about this that’s trained in the law. Do what Clinton did. They had a communication strategy, and they governed,” Graham told reporters Wednesday.
The new efforts for the Trump White House though, are not being labeled as a “war room” because the president has rebuffed the term.
“You don’t have a war room when you haven’t done anything wrong,” Mulvaney told reporters.
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