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

Ranch Musings: Encouraging the next generation

David Zirnhelt says balancing business and lifestyle may help the next generation stay on the ranch

Mighty Pucks beat Leftovers in Quesnel high school floor hockey overtime thriller

The Benchwarmers and Nordiques also pick up wins in Week 3

Quesnel Bikers meet the friendliest Good Neighbours in Vietnam

Chris and Heather Hartridge have spent five weeks touring the country and met many wonderful people

Bidding is open for ArtsWells Mini Murals

Contributing artists include Lindsay Kay, Connor Kenney, Dan Bern and Carly Nabess

Forestry Ink: Forestry practices and mine reclamation in B.C.

Columnist Jim Hilton writes about the possibilities for using biochar to reclaim mine-affected land

WATCH NOW: Going back in time for Family Day at Barkerville

Family Day Weekend Celebrations featured town tours, presentations, demonstrations and exhibits

CRA puts focus on paper returns as tax-filing season opens

The federal tax collector expects to handle about two million paper returns this calendar year out of roughly 26 million filings

StatCan says 3.2 million living in poverty, including 566,000 children

The child poverty rate of 8.2 per cent however is little changed from 2017

Teck withdraws application for Frontier mine, citing discourse over climate change

The Vancouver-based company said it will take a $1.13-billion writedown on the Frontier project in Alberta

B.C. VIEWS: Pipeline dispute highlights need for clarity

As the B.C. treaty process grinds on, uncertainty remains

‘A long way to go’: UNBC hosts Moose Hide Campaign gathering on Feb. 24

The event is a part of a movement to stand up against violence inflicted on women and children

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Most Read