On Monday, during a raucous Cabinet meeting, President Trump criticized the impeachment process that turned the White House gathering into a Trump-run war room as he continues to discourage many of his Republican allies by insisting on a personal and largely uncoordinated response to his mounting challenges.
Making some informal remarks that lasted more than an hour, Trump railed against what he called a “phony investigation” of his dealings with Ukraine and blasted the “phony emoluments clause” of the Constitution, which played a role in forcing him to scrap plans to host a global summit at his private golf club in Florida.
Trump also called on Republicans to “get tougher” before making a stream of false allegations about several of his predecessors, from George Washington to Barack Obama.
President Trump’s inconsistent behavior is causing growing alarm among Republican lawmakers, donors, and advisers who have demanded a more disciplined impeachment from the White House.
On Monday, the administration officials played down GOP anxiety as passing and typical of difficult junctures for Trump, but congressional allies are worried about Trump’s freewheeling style amid multiple investigative and political threats.
“George Washington, they say, had two desks. He had a presidential desk and a business desk,” Trump said. “You people with this phony emoluments clause,” he added.
Trump’s own impeachment defense caused lacking a coherent theme or a streamlined messaging campaign. Last week, amid a widely panned news conference, a growing number of the president’s allies are pushing for sweeping changes in the West Wing.
“There are big donors who want an establishment guy in there now,” the White House official said, but added that this dynamic “happens every time there are problems, and there is no reason to believe the president is even listening.”
Last week, Trump said to some officials that he was not troubled by Mulvaney’s briefing room performance and that he was happy to have someone defending him on television.
President Trump has recently commented that he believes that Democrats are divided and somewhat scattered about how to proceed in their impeachment inquiry, according to people who have spoken with him.
“He’d rather send out late-night tweets and TV clips that he wants in the echo chamber than have some kind of war room,” said former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg. “What you’re looking at is a TV president having 24-7 TV, new media and social media responses who doesn’t see the point of a war room. That’s his style, and that’s his strategy right now.”
“In this situation, when only the president and his personal attorney seem to have all the facts, it’s hard to have a coordinated defense,” said Michael Steel, a former top aide to House GOP leaders. “Without sharing the same ammunition and the same facts, you’re not going to be able to be effective, even if you gather people on laptops in a room,” Steel added. However, the Democrats have decided to depose Bill Taylor, the top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, on Tuesday.