President Donald Trump, joined by from left, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, speaks to media during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

White House fighting impeachment by stalling and attacking

Democrats want to know more about the Ukraine phone call

As House Democrats fire off more subpoenas, the White House has launched a high-stakes strategy to counter the impeachment threat to President Donald Trump: Stall. Obfuscate. Attack. Repeat.

One of the administration’s first moves: the State Department on Tuesday barred Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from appearing before a House panel conducting the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said his client was “profoundly disappointed” that he wouldn’t be able to testify. A whistleblower’s complaint and text messages released by another envoy portray Sondland as a potentially important witness to allegations that the Republican president sought to dig up dirt on a Democratic rival in the name of foreign policy.

READ MORE: Impeachment probe reaches into White House with new subpoena

Trump aides are honing their approach after two weeks of what allies have described as a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe. One expected step is a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejecting the inquiry because Democrats haven’t held a vote on the matter and moving to all but ceasing co-operation with Capitol Hill on key oversight matters.

The strategy risks further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe, setting up court challenges and the potential for lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing Trump of obstructing their investigations. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that Sondland’s no-show would be grounds for obstruction of justice and could give a preview of what some of the articles of impeachment against Trump would entail.

But as lawmakers seek to amass ammunition to be used in an impeachment trial, the White House increasingly believes all-out warfare is its best course of action.

“What they did to this country is unthinkable. It’s lucky that I’m the president. A lot of people said very few people could handle it. I sort of thrive on it,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “You can’t impeach a president for doing a great job. This is a scam.”

House Democrats, for their part, issued a new round of subpoenas on Monday, this time to Defence Secretary Mark Esper and acting White House budget director Russell Vought. Pelosi’s office also released an open letter signed by 90 former national security officials who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, voicing support for the whistleblower who raised concerns about Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political foe Joe Biden.

“A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers,” they wrote. “Whatever one’s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint, all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity. Simply put, he or she has done what our law demands; now he or she deserves our protection.”

The House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees are investigating Trump’s actions pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, potentially interfering in the 2020 election. The former vice-president, for his part, has accused Trump of “frantically pushing flat-out lies, debunked conspiracy theories and smears against me.” Trump also withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine.

Trump and his team’s initial strategy had been to try to undermine the credibility of the intelligence community whistleblower who first raised questions about Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, just as they tried to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. They stressed that the whistleblower had only second- or third-hand information and alleged that the person misrepresented the president’s efforts. But now a second whistleblower has come forward to corroborate the information, and a cache of text messages echoes the concerns that have been laid out.

The White House has struggled to communicate its message beyond Trump’s angry public proclamations and an endless stream of tweets.

READ MORE: Second Trump whistleblower spoke to inspector general, says lawyer

Indeed, top officials were absent from the Sunday talk shows, and the sole White House official to appear in public on Monday dodged questions on the inquiry.

Jason Miller, who served as senior communications adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign and worked with outside allies on the response to the Mueller investigation, said allies need to be doing a better job defending the president on the airwaves and painting the impeachment inquiry as nothing but a politically-motivated, losing endeavour.

“I think Trump allies need a much better approach and aggressive approach to what we currently have,” Miller said. “We need to be making the argument on TV with legal scholars that impeachment is going nowhere and is just a political act.”

The president’s aides have ignored document requests and subpoenas, invoked executive privilege — going so far as to argue that the privilege extends to informal presidential advisers who have never held White House jobs — and all but dared Democrats to hold them in contempt.

At the same time, Trump’s campaign, which has reported a fundraising surge since the impeachment inquiry, held a curiously timed briefing call with reporters Monday to trumpet its efforts to overhaul the delegate selection process to ensure there is no drama at the Republican National Convention. Trump campaign officials said the effort had nothing to do with concerns about fending off a primary challenge.

___

Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kiwanis, Ferraro Foods helping Trail seniors stay safe

Kiwanis rallies to provide Trail seniors grocery delivery service

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

COVID-19 adds worry and unexpected costs to Castlegar woman’s cancer fight

Community fundraiser raises $9,000 for Jennifer Rodrigues’ family

Castlegar and Trail Chevron offering free gas for front line workers

Health care, fire, police, paramedics included in offer

Grand Forks distillery shifts to make sanitizer

How a Grand Forks distillery is stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

World COVID-19 update: NATO suspicious of Russian military drills; Cruise ships ordered to stay at sea

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world for Wednesday, April 1

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

First COVID-19 outbreak in Interior Health identified at Okanagan agricultural business; 14 cases confirmed

75 workers are in isolation — 63 migrant workers and 12 local workers

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Most Read