President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE and his allies are going on offense after explosive revelations about his dealings with Ukraine opened up a new threat not just to his reelection but to his presidency as well.
Trump and those around him have questioned the credibility of the whistleblower behind a complaint alleging he sought help from the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Biden to tap law professor who wants to 'end banking as we know it' as OCC chief: reports MORE, while insisting there was nothing improper about the phone call in question and that the media has skewed the facts.
The president suggested on Friday that the whistleblower, whose identity remains unknown, may be a “partisan operative” and reiterated that he believed his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be “perfect.”
“If that perfect phone call with the President of Ukraine Isn’t considered appropriate, then no future President can EVER again speak to another foreign leader!” Trump wrote.
The Trump team has also blasted House Democrats for launching a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday as details of the July 25 call began to leak out through the press.
One of those targets came into focus Friday morning, when Trump called for the resignation of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power Overnight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global MORE (D-Calif.), a leading voice in the Democratic effort to impeach the president.
He fired off a series of tweets in which he sought to defend himself and accuse Democrats of a “witch hunt,” the same descriptor he used for the 22-month Russia investigation by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.
Trump lashed out at the lawmaker’s parody of the president’s call with Zelensky, demanding Schiff resign and be “investigated,” while calling him a “sick man.”
Hours later, White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayYoungkin leads McAuliffe among likely voters: poll Poll from conservative group shows tight governor's race in Virginia Psaki defends move to oust Trump appointees from military academy boards MORE engaged in a lengthy and contentious back-and-forth with reporters during which she criticized House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill On The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) for changing her mind on impeachment without first seeing the transcript of the July call.
“We have an impeachment inquiry based on nothing,” Conway told reporters at the White House.
“Nancy Pelosi finally capitulated to her angry mob,” said Conway, arguing there were “no high crimes and misdemeanors” and that Democrats are pursuing their inquiry with “a conclusion in search of evidence.”
The president and his aides have sought to fend off a wave of negative headlines stemming from the whistleblower complaint and a rough transcript of the call released by the White House showing Trump encouraged his Ukrainian counterpart to probe unsubstantiated allegations against Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner.
Details of the Zelensky call galvanized support among House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, a monumental step that some Republican strategists say could spell real trouble for Trump as the 2020 campaign intensifies.
“This is the most serious thing that the House can do. And look, this is the way that Trump deals with things — to rebut and sow anger and point blame in other places and so forth. That will work with his base; it’s not clear if that will work overall,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye, who noted there are still outstanding questions about the conversation between Trump and Zelensky.
“We just don’t know yet how far and deep this goes, but the further and deeper it goes — even for things that Trump didn’t necessarily do or say — still will cause him very serious political and or legal problems,” Heye said.
Public support for impeachment has been rising, with a new NPR/Marist survey showing 49 percent of Americans approving of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump, while 46 percent disapprove.
Some close to the White House downplayed the gravity of the call details and the effect of impeachment proceedings. One former White House official argued that while the rough transcript shows the conversation may have been “inappropriate,” it “sure isn’t impeachable.”
“While I think there’s some potential benefit to Trump, the most likely scenario is that impeachment ends up being a wash for both Republicans and Democrats politically — mostly because the transparently partisan nature of the entire situation will embolden the bases of both sides, but alienate the middle from fully throwing in with either party,” said another former White House official.
Trump and House Democrats are set for a seismic battle over the next several weeks, as congressional committees look to accelerate the impeachment push by subpoenaing documents and witnesses and scheduling hearings.
Conway dismissed speculation that the White House has immediate plans to set up an impeachment war room or hire more attorneys to help with the fight.
But the Trump campaign has gone into battle mode, announcing a multimillion dollar television ad buy Friday that highlights the unsubstantiated allegations that Biden pushed for the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to prevent an investigation into a firm with ties to his son, Hunter.
The ad will appear on national cable outlets and digital platforms starting Sunday and will run for a week.
“Democrats want to deny Americans the opportunity to vote to re-elect President Trump and people need to know the facts,” Trump campaign manager Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE said in a statement. “This is a Joe Biden scandal and the Democrats are trying to use it to steal the election.”