White House aides vanish from TV as Trump impeachment scandal mounts

Zamira Rahim
Donald Trump speaks to journalists in Washington: REUTERS

White House aides are increasingly choosing to avoid publicly defending Donald Trump, as an impeachment inquiry into the president’s conduct intensifies.

Mr Trump’s advisers frequently advocate for the president on Sunday political programmes but have recently failed to appear.

“We invited the White House on to answer questions on the show this morning,” Jake Tapper, the host of CNN’s ‘State of the Union’, said during Sunday’s show.

“They did not offer a guest.”

The strategy is a common one in the Trump White House, where senior officials are often elsewhere when major controversies threaten the presidency.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, are frequently absent during moments of crisis.

The pair are so frequently unavailable that their absences have become a running joke among the president’s critics.

The perception of silence has been compounded by the fact that Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, is yet to hold her first briefing.

Ms Grisham became press secretary in July 2019.

“It’s surprising that they’re not using the many levers on the most powerful communications platform in the world, which is the White House,” said Joe Lockhart, who serve as Bill Clinton’s press secretary.

“Nobody is vouching for him or validating him and filling in the blanks.”

Some aides are reportedly reluctant to publicly vouch for the president, in case he contradicts them.

In December 2018, the president used Twitter to contradict John Kelly, then White House chief of staff.

Mr Kelly said in an interview that the administration had moved on from plans for a concrete border wall.

“An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.

In the midst of the current crisis, aides are allowing the president to defend himself directly on the social media site.

“The president shouldn’t be his own defender,” Mr Lockhart said.

“The president should be focused on doing the job of the president.”

Mr Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats, focused on allegations he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son.

Despite the silence from aides, the 73-year-old has built an effective campaigning machine ahead of the 2020 race.

An advert released on Wednesday focused on Mr Biden and featured unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing.

“At all times we take our lead from the White House,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said.

Additional reporting by agencies