Trump allies in disarray as Democrats push impeachment
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Trump allies in disarray as Democrats push impeachment

Second-guessing and conspiracy theorizing by president’s top aides comes as Congress finalizes testimony by anonymous whistleblower in Ukraine scandal

In this November 20, 2016, file photo, then-US President-elect Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
In this November 20, 2016, file photo, then-US President-elect Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that he expects the whistleblower at the heart of impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump to testify “very soon.”

“All that needs to be done, at this point, is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony,” said Schiff (Democrat-California), “and that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower.”

As Democrats and the director of national intelligence worked out key arrangements, the president’s allies erupted in a surge of second-guessing and conspiracy theorizing across the Sunday talk shows, suggesting White House strategy is unclear against the stiffest challenge to Trump’s presidency. One former adviser urged Trump to confront the crisis at hand and get past his fury over the probe of Russian election interference.

“I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation,” said Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser. “If he continues to focus on that white whale,” Bossert added, “it’s going to bring him down.”

The Ukraine investigation produced what the Russian probe did not: formal House impeachment proceedings based on the president’s own words and actions.

Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to members of the media after Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson met behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee at the US Capitol September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The White House last week released a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as well as the whistleblower’s complaint alleging the US president pressured his counterpart to investigate the family of Joe Biden, the former vice president who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump’s reelection next year.

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son Hunter Biden in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.

The House forged ahead, with Schiff’s committee leading the investigation. Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment, with hearings and depositions starting this week. Many Democrats are pushing for a vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year, mindful of the looming 2020 elections.

Schiff has said the whistleblower has agreed to testify. His committee has been negotiating to interview the person, who reported to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged Zelenskiy to investigate Biden. The whistleblower also said that White House officials then moved to “lock down” the details by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.

US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

One of the whistleblower’s lawyers tweeted Sunday that talks were ongoing.

“We continue to work w/both parties in House & Senate and we… all agree that protecting whistleblower’s identity is paramount,” posted Mark Zaid. “Discussions continue to occur to coordinate & finalize logistics but no date/time has yet been set.”

Trump’s allies fanned out across the Sunday talk shows with myriad responses.

Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, called the whole inquiry a “partisan hit job” orchestrated by “a deep state operative” who is also “a saboteur.”

“The president of the United States is the whistleblower,” Miller said.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, promoted a debunked conspiracy theory, insisting that Ukraine had spread disinformation during the 2016 election.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller listens to US President Donald Trump speak during a cabinet meeting at the White House, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Bossert advised that Trump drop that defense.

“I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again,” said Bossert, who also was an adviser to President George W. Bush. “That conspiracy theory has got to go, they have to stop with that, it cannot continue to be repeated.”

Giuliani not only repeated it but also brandished what he said were affidavits that support them and claimed that Trump “was framed by the Democrats.”

He also at one point said he would not cooperate with Schiff, but then acknowledged he would do what Trump tells him. The White House did not provide an official response on whether the president would allow Giuliani to cooperate.

“If they’re going to obstruct,” Schiff warned, “then they’re going to increase the likelihood that Congress may feel it necessary to move forward with an article on obstruction.”

Giuliani appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” while Schiff was interviewed on ABC and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Bossert spoke on ABC and Miller on “Fox News Sunday.”

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