Nearly a month into the House impeachment inquiry, Donald Trump is allowing his top aides to start coordinating with his Republican defenders in Congress. White House aides and Republican lawmakers are now having regular conference calls, The Wall Street Journal reports, after complaints from congressional Republicans “that the White House was leaving them out of the loop, according to White House officials familiar with the calls. But from the White House perspective, there has been little to be looped into.”
The White House strategy has been to stonewall and assail the legitimacy of the probe, but even such a simple strategy has left room for miscommunications and confusion, and the specifics of the White House message have shifted with Trump’s moods and the (in)competence of aides such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney at remembering what they’re supposed to deny and what they’re supposed to defiantly embrace. But members of the House Freedom Caucus wanted in—if they’re going to defend Trump to the last breath, and they are, they want to know what exactly he wants them saying.
Other Republicans aren’t quite as deferential on messaging. Trump has claimed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told him that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “the most innocent phone call that I’ve ever read,” but McConnell said on Tuesday, “I don’t recall any conversations with the president about that phone call.” The Wall Street Journal described this as “a signal that communication remains imperfect” between McConnell and the White House, but it looks more like a case of McConnell being willing to do everything needed to keep Trump in power, but not being willing to unnecessarily sacrifice his own dignity on top of it.
Not so encumbered by dignity were Rep. Matt Gaetz and Co. Wednesday morning:
Led by @MattGaetz and assisted by @SteveScalise, House Republicans stage a publicity stunt in which they try to storm the doors of the House Intelligence Committee as they hold the Trump impeachment inquiry. This is an attempt to squelch the negative news about quid pro quo, etc pic.twitter.com/4EsfsVo38k
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 23, 2019
Boy, that’s compelling video that will really fire up the troops. Big coordination win there?
Republicans are still working on getting their false-messaging machine running at capacity, with daily talking points emails and regular impeachment strategy meetings of House Republican leadership staff up and running, and coordination with the White House expected to increase. But Trump’s refusal to admit that this is really happening has held them back a little, just as his temper tantrums and on-air confessions will keep making the task of defending him harder.