Earlier this week, former President Bill Clinton gave his suggestions on how President Donald Trump should handle the House Democrats impeachment probe. Recalling how he handled his own impeachment investigation, Clinton suggested that Trump keeps doing his “job,” letting lawyers fight the probe.
Clinton, he recalled, “would say, I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry, and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.”
“That’s what I would do,” he added.
The Trump White House was ready to embrace a similar strategy, according to a new report from The New York Times, but the president “blew up” the plan.
According to the report, Republicans in the United States Congress and members of the White House staff wanted the president to distance himself from the probe, and focus on leading the country.
The plan was allegedly in place and agreed upon, and Republicans prepared for congressional hearings with the White House’s strategy in mind. The president openly said that he will not even watch the hearings, and refrained from commenting on any of the testimonies.
That changed during Marie Yovanovitch’s hearing. The former United States ambassador to Ukraine’s testimony was interrupted, by the president himself.
As Yovanovitch was discussing the Trump administration’s policy toward Ukraine, Trump launched a Twitter attack. In a series of Twitter messages, he viciously attacked the diplomat, criticizing her and disparaging her career, claiming that “everywhere” she served “turned bad.”
Apparently notified about the tweets, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff interrupted the hearing, showing Yovanovitch that the president was attacking her.
“Now the president, in real time, is attacking you,” he said, asking the diplomat to comment on how the attacks are making her feel.
“It’s very intimidating,” she replied.
Trump’s tweets left his White House advisers “deeply dispirited,” according to the New York Times, and they privately acknowledged that he “had done himself damage.” Trump reportedly did not even clear the tweet with his advisers.
Democratic lawmakers present at the hearing took advantage of the situation, pressuring Yovanovitch to discuss how the president’s intimidation was affecting her.
“He is smearing you right now as you are testifying. Ambassador Yovanovitch, are the president’s smears going to stop you from fighting corruption?” California Democrat Eric Swalwell probed.
In the aftermath of the hearing, Republican lawmakers attempted to defend the president’s tweets, with some acknowledging that they did not like the “tone” of the president’s messages, and others arguing that both the media and the public should focus on the investigation itself.