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 John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed 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 Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court temporarily blocks House subpoena of Trump financial records | Trump touts 'cordial' meeting with Fed chief | Stopgap funding measure includes census money, military pay raise McConnell backs 'clean' stopgap spending bill through Dec. 20 The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Trump floats testifying in impeachment hearing 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 SchiffHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage Adam Schiff is just blowing smoke with 'witness intimidation' bluster 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 VolkerImpeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week Public impeachment hearings enter second week The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Trump floats testifying in impeachment hearing 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 GiulianiDemocrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings GOP senator calls impeachment 'sabotage' effort, raises questions about witness on eve of testimony Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week 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 GrishamTrump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed Former Afghan president condemns Trump's pardons in war-crimes cases Iran: US support of protesters hypocritical MORE and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayConway and Haley get into heated feud: 'You'll say anything to get the vice-presidential nomination' NBC signs Mueller 'pit bull' prosecutor Andrew Weissman as legal analyst George Conway and Trump Jr. trade personal insults during impeachment hearing MORE have in recent weeks acknowledged that they expect the House to move forward with impeachment.