October 24, 2019 / 10:33 PM / 25 days ago

Under impeachment pressure, White House considers communications specialist

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House officials are discussing the possibility of bringing in a specialist to handle communications involving the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as Republican officials clamour to defend President Donald Trump, sources familiar with the effort said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

It was unclear whether the specialist would work inside the White House or act as an outside adviser, with discussions still ongoing about the effort, the sources said.

Trump had announced former Republican lawmaker Trey Gowdy as an outside legal adviser, only to find out that lobbying rules would prevent Gowdy from working on impeachment until January, when the impeachment push could be either over or in its final stages.

There had been a sense inside the White House that no new officials were needed specifically to handle communications around the inquiry, but this has changed in recent days as Trump mounts pressure on Republicans for a more robust defence.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Thursday that the White House is working on getting a team together to work on communications.

“I talked to Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I think they’re working on getting a messaging team together,” Graham said during a news briefing, referring to White House’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

Graham pointed to the impeachment process of former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who “had a team that was organised, that had legal minds that could understand what was being said versus the legal proceedings in question, and they were on message every day.

“President Clinton defended himself but he never stopped being president,” Graham said.

White House officials are conducting a daily call with some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill to coordinate strategy, exchange viewpoints and work on messaging, a source familiar with the effort said.

There remains a need for a more robust internal strategy for managing the impeachment furore in much the same way the White House had a small team in support of the storm-tossed nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, said a Republican official close to the White House.

“I would love to see them get more aggressive and more tactically on top of things,” said the source. “A Kavanaugh-style mini team with a couple dedicated staff would be beneficial.”

“This is not a legal fight, it’s a political fight,” the source said.

Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Alistair Bell

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