Internecine warfare: Mulvaney backers turn fire on White House counsel over ‘bunker mentality’ – Washington Examiner
Mick Mulvaney’s stumble on impeachment messaging has his supporters turning fire on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who sources say is viewed within the White House as having a “shelter-in-place bunker mentality.”
“There’s an open feud between Pat and those who want to fight and defend the president in White House, and Mick is the face of it,” a White House official told the Washington Examiner, defending the acting chief of staff.
Cipollone “is not the person you want to lead a political fight. He’s a civil attorney without a political bone in his body,” the official said. “The majority of people working in the White House who want to fight, who want to engage in pushing against the Democrats, have been frustrated.”
Though Cipollone sent House Democrats an Oct. 8 letter refusing to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry, citing the lack of a floor vote to begin proceedings, his detractors in the White House say they view him as having then retreated into a metaphorical cave.
Democrats began impeachment proceedings after a whistleblower alleged that Trump, in a phone call with Ukraine’s president, threatened to hold back foreign aid unless Ukraine investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian energy firm. Trump also asked in the call for an investigation of the whereabouts of a Democratic National Committee server, according to a transcript released by the White House.
While giving a White House press briefing Thursday, Mulvaney said military aid to Ukraine was withheld this year in an effort to force Ukrainian authorities to investigate “corruption that related to the DNC server.” He later claimed he misspoke after Democrats said he implicated Trump in an improper quid pro quo.
“I think he clarified it,” Trump said Friday.
Among White House staff who support Mulvaney, there was a sense that he at least tried to fight back against Democrats seeking impeachment.
“There are a lot of people who work hard here every day for the president and want to go out and fight against what they see as a complete sham process,” the White House official said. “There’s a lot of frustration, so whenever Mick goes out to fight, there are a lot of people internally who are very excited about it.”
The official pointed to the recent effort to add former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy to Trump’s legal team as evidence of Cipollone’s waning standing.
“I think Pat is losing a lot of power,” the official said. “There is a reason Trey was gaining a lot of steam.”
Observers see Mulvaney’s stumble as a potential consequence of not having an internal “war room” to fight against impeachment, as was created under President Bill Clinton. Mulvaney said Thursday a war room was unnecessary because Trump is innocent.
Cipollone, godfather of Fox News host Laura Ingraham, joined the White House nearly one year ago. His critics expressed frustration with a pair of positive recent profiles in Politico and The Atlantic, which presented Cipollone as in good standing with the president.
“He doesn’t get along as well personalitywise with the president and other staff in general,” a former White House staffer told the Washington Examiner. “It was very apparent that there is less faith than there was in Don McGahn, even with things such as judicial appointments.”
“It seems to be a bad combination of concerns particularly during such a difficult time for the president,” the former official said.
He added: “The White House counsel should ensure that they are briefing to make sure public statements are worked through. If he didn’t make it clear to the chief of staff how things should be said, that’s a disservice to the chief.”
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.