Donald Trump’s attempt to bring former Congressman Trey Gowdy on board to lead his impeachment defense appears to be dead in the water after being stymied by lobbying regulations and intra-staff bickering.
The president said last week the former Republican congressman from South Carolina would join his team as outside counsel in January because of lobbying regulations.
‘Trey Gowdy is a great guy,’ he said Thursday at the White House. ‘He can’t start for another couple of months because of lobbying rules and regulations.’
Trump was likely referring to House ethics rules, which ban former members of Congress from communication or appearing before any lawmakers or congressional staffers ‘with the intent to influence’ for one year after leaving office.
Trey Gowdy will not be joining team defending President Trump on impeachment
Trey Gowdy wouldn’t be able to start until January and impeachment inquiry has heated up
Since Gowdy retired from Congress in January 2019, he would not be able to try and influence his former colleagues until January 2020.
But on Sunday The New York Times reported Gowdy wasn’t coming on board after all and the blame was being pointed at acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Mulvaney had wanted Gowdy because he was a former prosecutor who understood how Congress worked but not everyone in the White House was in agreement.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wasn’t convinced about Mulvaney’s former colleague in Congress, the Times reported, as Cipollone and Mulvaney have clashed on the best way to respond to the Democrats’ impeachment probe.
Trump also had lunch with Gowdy last week as he was skeptical about adding him to the team.
Gowdy, who became a national name for his investigation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi matter, had challenged the president in the past including on his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the FBI had spied on his 2016 presidential campaign.
Additionally, Trump has seemed opposed to setting up the kind of war room that Bill Clinton aides established in the 1990s to fight his impeachment inquiry.
The president sees himself as his own best communicator and takes to Twitter to fight his own battles.
But after Trump met with Gowdy it seemed as all systems were go.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow released a statement welcoming Gowdy to the team and the president told reporters Gowdy would be on board in January.
But it was that start date that started to unravel the agreement.
Gowdy flagged a concern from his law firm about the House rule that put a one-year cap on his activities.
To play it safe, Gowdy told the White House he wouldn’t be able to start until January 4.
But the president needed someone who could go on television and start defending him immediately, Fox News reported, as Democrats’ stepped their investigation and subpoenas were coming at the administration.
Subpoenas or document requests have gone out to the White House, the Defense Department, the White House Office of Management and Budget, Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two Giuliani associates.
The deadlines for most of those requests are this coming week.
A report has White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (left) and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (right) fighting over the impeachment defense strategy
Trump son-in-law and White House counselor Jared Kushner is reported involved
Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia, arrived on Capitol Hill Monday to testify before lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry.
Hill is expected to testify how the Trump administration’s relationship with the Ukraine was affected by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the push for a probe into Joe Biden.
Giuliani has been one of the biggest promoters of an unproven theory that Biden, as vice president, pushed the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor to benefit a gas company where his son sat on the board.
Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, who was a part of the conversations about the role of the Ukraine, will testify on Thursday.
Sonland was scheduled to testify last week but Trump blocked him from doing so. He was appearing voluntarily but, after the president told him not to show up, Democrats issued a subpoena.
Former Ambassador the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified last week as did Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine.
But now with Gowdy out and Giuliani being sidelined as he gets pulled into the impeachment inquiry for his actions involving the Ukraine, there are questions about who will be the public face of the president’s defense.
Trump had the same question, according to the Times, and asked if of Mulvaney, who told him it his son-in-law, White House Counselor Jared Kushner.
Kushner has been working on the impeachment inquiry but it’s unclear as to what his exact role is.