Elaina Plott and Peter Nicholas: Why firing Mick Mulvaney is riskier than keeping him
Mulvaney could become a star witness in the impeachment proceedings, if Democrats are able to secure his testimony. Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who is involved in the inquiry and is a former constitutional-law professor, told us that Mulvaney “essentially confessed to the crime. He has given us the essential conclusion which settles the matter of law, but there are a number of other facts that he could fill in.” Summoning Mulvaney would undoubtedly set up a fight, with White House lawyers making the argument that he’s immune from having to testify about conversations with Trump.
Trump has been told that he needs a more adept communications strategy to thwart the impeachment investigation, and he agrees it’s necessary, the person close to the president said. Different advisers have floated different alternatives, one of which would be designating a spokesperson to handle press inquiries along with a group of aides who would rebut the allegations that Democrats have surfaced.
It’s already late to be setting up a war room. Even before the call summary’s release, House Democrats, responding to early reports on what it would reveal, appeared united in insisting that the president had abused the powers of his office, and that an impeachment inquiry was necessary.
Peter Nicholas: The unraveling of Donald Trump
Legal efforts to quash the probe have failed. Earlier this month, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to House Democrats that the administration wouldn’t cooperate with the inquiry, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the State Department would not make several officials available for testimony. Ignoring such pronouncements, a parade of administration officials have come forward anyway, delivering damning testimony of a quid pro quo undertaken by Trump. Cipollone’s letter sparked a backlash. Even his former classmates at the University of Chicago Law School balked, writing to him that his letter “flouts the tradition of rigor and intellectual honesty that we learned together.”
Trump’s mantra has been that his call with his Ukrainian counterpart was “perfect.” But some Republicans believe that the one-word defense is inadequate. They want a credible, substantive explanation of what happened that they can relay to voters. So far, there’s been none.
On Tuesday, after William Taylor, the U.S.’s top diplomat in Ukraine, offered testimony that contradicted the White House’s claim that there was no quid pro quo, Trump’s press office released a rare statement. The response was a single paragraph, and it boiled down to a vague attack on Taylor, referring to the Vietnam War veteran and other administration officials who have testified as “radical unelected bureaucrats.”
Until this point, the White House has seemed confident that Trump’s Republican support in the Senate is a firewall that will ultimately prevent his removal from office. Should the House impeach Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial. Twenty Republicans would need to join with Democrats to force the president out. Under ordinary circumstances, that threshold would be impossible to meet. But nothing about this situation is ordinary.