According to a report from Bloomberg, the Republican Senate leadership is dead in the water on what approach the White House would like them to take to defend Donald Trump from impeachment because key administration officials are in a power struggle.
The report notes that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone are feuding over impeachment strategies, even as the House inquiry prepares to switch to public hearings next week.
"Cipollone sees impeachment as his domain because he views it as a legal matter and has privately complained to colleagues that Mulvaney is trying to wrest control, the people said. Mulvaney believes he’s in charge because impeachment is political and expects Cipollone to report to his office, " Bloomberg reports.
The report goes on to state that Mulvaney might be working with a weaker hand after a disastrous press conference on October 17, where he blurted out that the president was engaging in quid pro quo negotiations with Ukraine's president despite presidential disavowals at the time.
Noting that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has suggested dumping Mulvaney, Bloomberg reports, "Cipollone was privately critical of Mulvaney’s performance and was caught off guard by his comments about Ukraine, according to one person familiar with the situation. Officials from the White House counsel’s office met with Mulvaney’s staff to discuss the news conference before it took place, according to another person."
The battle is not only limited to impeachent, with the two also squabbling over non-impeachment issues.
"Cipollone and Mulvaney argue regularly, two people said, over impeachment, judicial nominations and other issues," the report states. "Mulvaney recently complained privately that Cipollone hasn’t aggressively coached White House staff on their rights when subpoenaed by the House, and hasn’t been explicit about whether they should testify, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."
Bloomberg notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed dissatisfaction with White House dysfunction and, as such, "has yet to offer a vigorous public defense of Trump’s conduct," and allowing "passage of a September resolution pushed by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York urging the White House to let lawmakers see a whistle-blower’s complaint about the president’s actions."
For his part, Mulvaney has been summoned to testify before a closed-door House committee on Friday, with the White House stating he will not appear.