Top Trump associates are consumed by infighting as impeachment crisis worsens

Top Trump associates are consumed by infighting as impeachment crisis worsens
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham look on as the Color Guard prepares to post the colors for a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in remembrance of those lost on September 11, 2001. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

The Trump White House can’t get through an average Monday morning without infighting, backstabbing, and leaks about the infighting and backstabbing, so why would a full-blown impeachment inquiry be any different? It is not. Some of Donald Trump’s top advisers are at war with each other as they fight out the best impeachment strategy but also jockey for personal position with Trump and in the proceedings.

Take acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney responded to a House subpoena to testify by first trying to piggyback onto the subpoena-related lawsuit of one of former national security adviser John Bolton’s top deputies, Charles Kupperman, who had been on the other side of Trump’s Ukraine extortion from Mulvaney. Mulvaney was pro-extortion, while the Bolton camp was against it. So why was Mulvaney seeking to join Kupperman’s legal case asking if he had to comply with a subpoena? Mulvaney had some nonsense claim about how he wasn’t really suing his boss, Trump—he was suing House Democrats. Except that Trump had ordered everyone to just refuse subpoenas, not to ask the courts what they should do. After being met with a cold shoulder on Kupperman’s suit, Mulvaney announced that he would launch his own court case, and then ultimately decided to give up on the courts and just do what Trump had ordered to begin with.

Mulvaney meanwhile is carrying on a running feud with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whose office released the disastrous partial transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mulvaney opposed releasing that call. Cipollone, though, has cause for serious frustration with Mulvaney after the press briefing in which Mulvaney admitted that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to try to pressure the country into digging up or manufacturing dirt on his political opponents. Both men have tried to control the hires of impeachment strategists and lawyers, with Mulvaney coming out on the losing end. But some House Republicans are now frustrated with Cipollone for getting in the way of hiring former Benghazi czar Trey Gowdy—in part, it’s believed, because Cipollone wants to personally lead the cross-examination in a Senate impeachment trial.

Mulvaney also believes, not without reason, that Cipollone might be a threat to his job, at which he’s still in an acting capacity. According to The New York Times, while “people close to Cipollone” said that he’s not interested in the chief of staff job, they also “acknowledged that there were previous discussions with Mr. Trump about such a shift.”

So these guys hate each other. And they are two of the top advisers who should be helping Trump through this process, not that Trump can ever follow anyone’s advice anyway. But what the White House does have going for it is absolute obedience from House Republicans, and that’s worth a lot.

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