White House to add two aides to lead impeachment messaging

White House to add two aides to lead impeachment messaging
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The White House is expected to add a pair of aides tasked with leading its impeachment communications team as the House prepares to go public with its inquiry into President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE.

Two officials confirmed to The Hill that former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh will join the White House communications staff "to work on proactive impeachment messaging and other special projects as they arise."

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Their roles will be temporary and they will be designated as special government employees, according to a senior administration official.

The announcement comes the same day House Democrats unveiled the schedule for their first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into Trump, with hearings scheduled for next Wednesday and Friday.

The White House has at times struggled to coalesce around a unified messaging strategy on impeachment, something that has been a point of concern for Republican allies in Congress. The mercurial Trump has largely steered the defense strategy thus far with his own brash public statements, insistence he did nothing wrong and refusal to cooperate with investigations.

Sayegh previously worked as a Republican strategist before joining the Trump administration. He served as a spokesman for Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE and led messaging efforts for the White House's tax cut push.

Bondi served as Florida's attorney general from 2011 to 2019, and Trump's foundation made a much-scrutinized donation in support of her reelection campaign in 2013. She has remained an outspoken supporter of the president since.

The president last month dismissed the need for a full-fledged team to defend him against impeachment, telling reporters, "I'm the team." But Wednesday's staffing announcement indicates the White House is taking the process more seriously as it moves into a public phase.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) said earlier Wednesday that lawmakers initially plan to call in three witnesses next week to build their case publicly that Trump abused his office by pressuring a foreign power to investigate his domestic political opponents.

Schiff said that William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and George Kent, a top State Department official, will testify next Wednesday. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is then expected to testify next Friday.

House Democrats have in recent days released transcripts of closed-door testimony from Taylor, Yovanovitch, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerCNN obtains audio of 2019 Giuliani call linked to Ukraine meddling allegations GOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports MORE, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former top State Department aide Michael McKinley.

Each of the transcripts have portrayed the president's personal attorney, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiDOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit Bob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' Ex-Trump adviser Barrack charged with secretly lobbying for UAE MORE, as serving as a second channel to pursue the president's interests in Ukraine and shown officials raising various concerns about the desire for Ukrainian officials to publicly commit to investigating the 2016 election. 

Sondland in updated testimony said that he presumed aid for Ukraine was contingent on the country publicly announcing investigations that Trump wanted.

White House aides have remained adamant that the president did nothing wrong and insisted there was no explicit quid pro quo. But both press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamJill Biden appears on Vogue cover Kayleigh McEnany joins Fox News as co-host of 'Outnumbered' Melania Trump says she was 'disappointed and disheartened' watching Capitol riots MORE and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayAides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book 7 conservative women who could replace Meghan McCain on 'The View' Karen Pence confirms move back to Indiana: 'No place like home' MORE have in recent weeks acknowledged that they expect the House to move forward with impeachment.