Oct 25, 2019

Scoop: The West Wing's impeachment war room

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution yesterday condemning the Trump impeachment inquiry. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Top Trump officials have quietly created a de facto impeachment war room, with a chief goal of policing and solidifying Republican Senate support for acquittal.

What's happening: Most senior officials in the White House recognized quickly that the G7 and Syria decisions harmed the president's standing with Senate Republicans, and realized that could bleed over and cause problems for their impeachment firewall.

For the past several weeks, senior Trump White House officials have held a near-daily meeting focused on messaging — not the legal side of the impeachment fight, per three sources familiar with the situation.

  • Almost every morning around 10 a.m., there's an impeachment "messaging coordination" meeting in either the Situation Room or the Roosevelt Room.
  • Staff from these offices typically attend: chief of staff's office, Legislative Affairs, vice president's office, Political Affairs, Cabinet Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Public Liaison, press and comms, and digital.
  • The White House counsel's office is not involved in these meetings.
  • It's been widely reported that the White House counsel Pat Cipollone has frustrated some senior officials, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, for what some have described as his "hoarding" of information.

Why it matters: The group's most crucial metric is support for the president among Republicans in the Senate.

  • So the planning focuses on anything that could affect that: what's breaking through on TV and social media, and who is scheduled to testify on the Hill.
  • It's not being called a "war room" internally, and is nothing like the formal response structure President Clinton had during his impeachment fight.

The backstory: These meetings were born out of frustration — widely shared among people inside and out of the administration — about a lack of communication and information coming out of the White House counsel's office.

  • Republicans on the Hill still complain they're getting very little guidance out of the White House. 

Another reality: This group does not and could never control what President Trump says.

  • He is his own strategist, keeps his own counsel, and considers himself his own best messenger.
  • That means that communications and messaging on impeachment from this White House will never be coordinated in a traditional way.

The White House press shop didn't respond to a request for comment.

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