President Donald Trump has stepped up his outreach to Republican senators — including by helping his potential future jurors raise money for their reelection bids – as the White House prepares for an impeachment trial in the Senate that looks increasingly likely.
Trump is traveling Friday to Atlanta so he can help Republican Sen. David Perdue, a close ally, fill his campaign coffers ahead of what could become a competitive race next year.
Trump also held court Thursday evening with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who not only wants to keep his majority but is running for reelection next year himself, at the Trump International Hotel. Trump was there raising funds on behalf of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC benefiting Republicans in the chamber. Late last month, his campaign sent out a fundraising appeal for a trio of vulnerable Republican senators: Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa — all of whom face potentially tough battles in 2020.
Amid criticism of the way they handled the impeachment inquiry, Trump and his top aides increased their assistance to some of the GOP senators who will play key roles in determining the President’s fate.
Another example: Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill and advised GOP senators at their weekly lunch Tuesday on how they should best defend Trump against the Ukraine scandal, referring them back to the July 25 phone call transcript that the President himself has used repeatedly as a shield from the expanding investigation.
Trump brought a coterie of Republican lawmakers along to watch Game 5 of the World Series in Washington on October 27, including McConnell, Perdue and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He invited a different small group of GOP senators to the White House within hours of the House vote last week to formalize impeachment proceedings.
People familiar with the discussions said Republican senators sense a more concerted effort to coordinate behind the scenes as the White House looks ahead to a new phase of the impeachment inquiry in the House and the prospect of a trial looming in the Senate after the holidays.
The White House declined to comment on the timing of Trump’s increased fundraising for Senate Republicans as impeachment proceedings accelerate.
His effort to boost GOP lawmakers is just one part of a nascent strategy for dealing with the controversy engulfing Trump’s presidency — a strategy even some of his most loyal defenders complained did not exist when the inquiry began. The White House this week hired two outside allies — former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh — to strengthen the communications team tasked with crafting a public defense for Trump.
Despite House Democrats’ discovery of a widening array of evidence related to the administration’s dealings in Ukraine, Trump has continued to defend his comments in a single phone call this summer to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
White House aides remain split on the decision to release the transcript of that call in late September even as the President has cited it as exculpatory proof that he did not leverage diplomatic tools to pressure the Ukrianians to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
With few exceptions, Senate Republicans have remained united in their criticism of the manner in which the impeachment process has unfolded. Fifty of the upper chamber’s 53 GOP members quickly signed onto a resolution, spearheaded by Graham, that condemned the impeachment process.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah remains one of the only Republican Senators to have spoken out against Trump as evidence has emerged to suggest the President dangled military aid and diplomatic engagement in front of the Ukrainians as his personal attorney and others pushed Zelensky’s government to announce a Biden-related investigation publicly. There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine related to Biden or his son, Hunter, whose service on the board of a Ukrainian company while his father was vice president has become an object of fixation for Trump and his allies.