Trump to battle investigations with condemnation, lawyers

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House has beefed up its legal team. Its political team is ready to distract and disparage. And United States (US) President Donald Trump is venting against Democratic prying.

Trump’s plan for responding to the multiplying congressional probes into his campaign, White House and personal affairs is coming into focus as newly empowered Democrats intensify their efforts. Deploying a mix of legal legwork and political posturing, the administration is trying to minimise its exposure while casting the president as the victim of overzealous partisans.

“It’s a disgrace, it’s a disgrace for our country,” Trump said at the White House on Tuesday as he accused Democrats of “presidential harassment”.

Typically used to setting the national or global agenda, presidents are by definition on their back foot when they come under investigation. And the latest fusillade of requests for information has the Trump White House, already increasingly focussed on the twin challenges of dealing with the probes and the 2020 election, in a reactive position.

Trump’s response points to his increasing frustration with Congress and his intention to seize on the investigations as evidence that he is under siege in Washington.

While Trump is far from the first president to bristle at Capitol Hill oversight, his enthusiastic embrace of political victimhood is still novel – and stands to serve as a key part of his re-election argument. Trump has made railing against the so-called witch hunt against him a staple of his rallies and speeches, revving up crowds by mocking his investigators and news coverage of their proceedings.

That attitude was emphasised on Tuesday by Trump’s son Eric, who was among the 81 people and organisations that the House Judiciary Committee has contacted seeking documents as part of a probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Calling Congress “incompetent”, Eric Trump told Fox News Radio “we’re going to fight out of it. And we’ll fight where we need and we’ll cooperate where we need, but the desperation shows.”

Aware that the shift to divided government would usher in an onslaught of investigations, the White House began making defensive moves late last year. Seeking to be ready for the Democratic-led House, more than a dozen lawyers were added to the White House Counsel’s Office and a seasoned attorney was added to the communications team to handle questions related to the probes.

After Democrats took the House last November, Trump declared that they had to choose between investigating him and earning White House cooperation on matters of bipartisan concern like health care and infrastructure. Trump assessed publicly on Tuesday that Democrats had made their choice, saying, “So the campaign begins.”

His aides had already made that determination, with press secretary Sarah Sanders issuing an acerbic statement late Monday calling the Judiciary Committee probe a “disgraceful and abusive investigation.” Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, accused Democrats of stopping “at nothing, including destroying the lives and reputations of many innocent Americans who only have sought to serve their country honourably, but who hold different political views than their own”.