Donald Trump gestures at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (File — Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
Donald Trump warns Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Republican legislators must not be “disloyal” as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry.
“A person familiar with the conversations” said Trump is calling McConnell up to three times a day, a sign of Trump’s agitation with the furor over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, and to cover up Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections.
McConnell’s staff pushed back on the report. “This story, based on a single anonymous source, is categorically false. Leader McConnell never said anything like this,” said spokesman Doug Andres.
In the past week, amid new revelations about the extent of the campaign by Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Trump has warned Republican senators not to consider his conviction on impeachment charges.
He sent the message through insults of Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s Presidential nominee in 2012: “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning.” The Twitter tirade included the hashtag #ImpeachMittRomney.
Romney had chided Trump for telling reporters that China as well as Ukraine should investigate Biden and his son Hunter, repeating conspiracy theories and disinformation about the two men: “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
Trump told McConnell that he will step up attacks on any Republican senator who criticizes him, according to “the person familiar with the conversations”.
On Tuesday, the White House said it will defy subpoenas for testimony and document, through a letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three House committee chairs.
A “source close to the President’s impeachment team” said Trump’s son-Jared Kushner has a “growing role” in the White House response to the impeachment inquiry. Other staff said the outside legal team, including long-time Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and former Rep. Trey Gowdy, are in the lead.
But others said Trump is the only person setting the line, through his tweets and his statements to reporters.
To occupy Trump and to whip up opposition to impeachment, aides have scheduled rallies over the next week, with a trip to Minnesota on Thursday and to Louisiana on Friday.
Former US Ambassador Scheduled to Testify Friday
House Democrats have not been deterred by the White House rejection of subpoenas, including the order to US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland — a donor to Trump’s inauguration who was a central figure in the Trump-Giuliani pressure campaign against Ukraine — not to appear before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees earlier this week.
Sondland has been subpoenaed to give closed-door testimony next week, and investigators expect Marie Yovanovitch, the US Ambassador to Ukraine removed by Trump and Giuliani, will give a deposition on Friday.
A “senior congressional aide” said Yovanovitch and her lawyer are “on board”. It is unclear, however, if the State Department will try to block the deposition.
Former US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker was deposed last week. Hours later, House Democrats released text messages between Volker, Sondland, US chargé d’affaires in Ukraine William Taylor, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s senior aide Andriy Yermak.
The messages reinforced the formal complaint by a CIA official which revealed the Trump-Giuliani campaign since last November and Trump’s repeated request of Zelenskiy, in a July 25 phone call, to investigate Joe Biden and the Democrats.