Jan 16, 2019

How the White House is prepping for Democrats' onslaught

White House counsel Pat Cipollone (L) and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Despite President Trump's lack of personal interest in planning, the White House Counsel’s Office is now moving fast to prepare for the twin threats of Robert Mueller and the new Democratic House majority.

The big picture: These threats dwarf anything that any president has faced since Bill Clinton. There's a surge of internal action after a slow start: Planning for Democratic oversight only began in earnest at the senior level in November.

Much of the mid-level White House staff remains oblivious to what’s going on behind the scenes. But the new White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, has impressed the officials he's dealt with and Republican legal eminences I have spoken to.

  • A senior White House official said Cipollone has added 17 attorneys since coming on board after the midterms.
  • That includes notable talent and experience — especially his deputies: Patrick Philbin, a former Comey staffer, and George W. Bush alumnus Mike Purpura.
  • Cipollone has already met with new House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, Axios has learned. "It was brief; we’re going to meet again this week, or maybe some time next week," Cummings told Axios’ Alayna Treene.
  • A senior White House official confirmed the WashPost report of Cipollone's plan to assert the president’s executive privilege to "prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s ... report."

White House lawyer Emmet Flood — who helped Clinton through impeachment proceedings and faced Democratic investigators when he worked for George W. Bush — has been coaching some White House staff on what to expect and how to prepare, according to sources with direct knowledge.

  • Flood, who has told colleagues he plans to leave the White House when the Mueller probe ends, has briefed staff from legislative affairs, communications, the staff secretary’s office and other parts of the building on what to expect from, and how to handle, congressional investigators.

While the new counsel has hired experienced lawyers from the George W. Bush era, Flood is the only lawyer on staff who — from his time with Bill Clinton — fully appreciates the scale and intensity of what's about to hit them.

  • In previously unreported conversations, a small senior staff group has been discussing oversight — including meetings between Cipollone and top communications and press officials.
  • The White House Counsel's Office has been meeting with general counsels from Cabinet agencies to prepare for what's ahead, according to a senior administration official.
  • And Cipollone's team has "studied and closely reviewed past precedent of how previous administrations have handled [oversight]," the official said.

The official told me there's "aggressive lobbying" to convince Flood to stay on beyond Mueller.

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Trump threatens to "assume control" of Minneapolis over unrest

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis on Thursday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump threatened via Twitter early Friday to send the national guard to Minneapolis following three days of massive demonstrations and unrest in the city over George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody this week.

Details: "I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," Trump tweeted after a police station was torched by some protesters.

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In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

Protesters cheer as the Third Police Precinct burns behind them on in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cheering protesters set a Minneapolis police station on fire Thursday night in the third night of unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city, per AP.

The state of play: Minnesota's governor on Thursday activated the state's national guard following violent outbreaks throughout the week, as the nation waits to see if the officers involved will be charged with murder.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has a single novel coronavirus case after reporting a week of no new infections, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Friday local time.

By the numbers: Nearly 6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.3 million have recovered from the virus. Over 357,000 people have died globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world with over 1.6 million.