White House aims to hone strat­egy

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

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.”

As the im­peach­ment in­quiry pressed for­ward, Repub­li­cans stepped up their at­tacks on Pelosi. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested in late-night tweets that she should be re­moved from of­fice.

In a Mon­day tweet, Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani res­ur­rect­ing his idea of fil­ing a law­suit against Pelosi for “con­spir­acy to vi­o­late con­sti­tu­tional and civil rights.”

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.

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

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.

Asked whether he be­lieved the pres­i­dent was jok­ing or in any way not se­ri­ous when he sug­gested pub­licly that China should in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens, Larry Kud­low, Trump’s top eco­nomic ad­viser, re­sponded: “I don’t hon­estly know.”

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.

As the im­peach­ment in­quiry ramps up, the White House plans to reprise its past re­sponse to con­gres­sional over­sight: open scorn.

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.

House in­ves­ti­ga­tors are plan­ning to hear Tues­day from Gor­don Sond­land, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union who has be­come a cen­tral fig­ure in the probe, and Fri­day from Marie Yo­vanovitch, the for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine who was re­called from the post early.

The Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­uted.

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Pres­i­dent Trump and his aides are ex­pected to send a let­ter to House Democrats re­ject­ing the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

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