- President Donald Trump spent a meeting with Republican lawmakers this week complaining about the ongoing impeachment inquiry into him and bragging about his popular tweets, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- Trump “also touched on state polling, his re-election campaign and even reminisced about his appearances on ‘The Apprentice,'” according to the Journal.
- Trump also proudly informed lawmakers that his tweeting a photo of a military K9 who assisted US forces in the capture of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was his second most-liked tweet ever with 572,000 likes and 131,000 retweets.
- Trump’s impromptu meetings and frequent tweeting reflect a larger lack of an organized and structured impeachment strategy, which by all accounts, is being led by Trump himself and not a team of communications professionals.
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President Donald Trump invites select Republican lawmakers for regular strategy meetings at the White House, but spent this week’s meeting complaining about the ongoing impeachment inquiry into him and bragging about his popular tweets, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported that during these meetings, Trump has veered off into discussing impeachment. He lamented the ongoing inquiry being pursued by the House of Representatives and disputed the testimony of several State Department and White House officials who have testified that the Trump administration leveraged military aid to pressure Ukrainian officials into pursuing investigations of Trump’s political rivals.
Citing people in the room, the Journal said that Trump “also touched on state polling, his re-election campaign and even reminisced about his appearances on ‘The Apprentice,'” the reality show on NBC that Trump hosted for fourteen years.
Trump also proudly informed lawmakers that his tweet of a declassified photo of the military K-9 who heroically assisted US forces in the capture of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was his second most-liked tweet ever with 572,000 likes and 131,000 retweets.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2019
The first, he said, was an infamous tweet from 2017 which read, “despite the negative press covfefe,” an apparent typo for “coverage” that sparked months of jokes and memes.
But for Trump, the ongoing impeachment inquiry is no laughing matter.
Trump’s own officials are testifying against him, and the White House still lacks a clear strategy
The inquiry centers around the claims lodged in an anonymous whistleblower complaint that Trump used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election” in a series of events culminating in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The complaint specifically charged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter days after withholding a nearly $400 million military-aid package Congress had already appropriated to Ukraine.
Trump’s personal attorney has for months been pushing an unsubstantiated theory that Biden, in his capacity as vice president, called for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden served on the board from 2014 to 2019.
Since then, the whistleblower complaint has been corroborated by the White House’s own summary notes of the Trump-Zelensky call, White House officials themselves, and the sworn testimony of several career diplomatic and national-security officials.
The White House’s notes of the call confirm Trump brought up how the US does “a lot for Ukraine” and, immediately after, asked Zelensky to do him a “favor, though” by investigating Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine is in possession of a Democratic National Committee server.
For several weeks, the White House and Republicans’ main defense was arguing that Trump was not engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.
But White House acting chief of staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney seemingly admitted in a press briefing to reporters on October 18 that the administration engaged in a quid-pro-quo with Ukraine to trade US military aid for investigations.
“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said during the conference.
Mulvaney later tried to walk back his comments, but the damage to the White House and Republican defense against impeachment couldn’t be undone.
This week, two top National Security Council officials have sustained that narrative with damaging testimony to Congress. First, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was on the July 25 call, told Congress he informed his superiors at the time he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.”
Another top NSC official working on Ukrainian and Eastern European affairs, Tim Morrison, also confirmed previous testimony and said he learned “the release of the security sector assistance might be conditioned on a public statement reopening the Burisma investigation” from Ukraine.
Trump’s impromptu meetings and frequent tweeting reflect a larger lack of an organized and structured impeachment strategy.
In a recent press conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s key allies on Capitol Hill, acknowledged the White House lacked a coherent messaging strategy, unlike the White House during the Clinton impeachment process, which he described as far more disciplined.
During the Clinton impeachment process, then chief of staff John Podesta ran the tightest of ships, convening a “war room” and organizing teams of White House staff to craft messaging and strategy around the White House’s other policy priorities to give off the appearance that Clinton was still conducting
“President Clinton defended himself, but he never stopped being president,” Graham recalled.