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)

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

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

(File photo)
Three young girls followed while walking home from school, Surrey police say

RCMP say suspect took off after girls went into nearby store for help

Black smoke rises above Highway 17 in Surrey on Thursday. (Fraser Valley Road Report Facebook)
Fire sends thick black smoke above Surrey industrial area

Firefighters say blaze burning just off of Tannery Road and Highway 17 in Surrey

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read