WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is bringing former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and ex-Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh on board to help bring structure to the White House's often chaotic response to the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump has played down the need for additional help on impeachment, calling any such effort unnecessary. “I don’t have teams, everyone is talking about teams," he said late last month. "I am the team. I did nothing wrong.”
But the White House has struggled to find a coordinated messaging response on impeachment as polls have shown a growing number of Americans supporting Trump’s removal from office. Democrats are planning to start the first public hearings next week.
Trump’s allies in Congress have long encouraged him to bring on a dedicated team to help with the process, as President Bill Clinton’s staff did when he was impeached.
“They were on message every day,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said of the Clinton White House.
Bondi, a former prosecutor and lobbyist, was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, and the president has said in the past he has considered adding her to his administration.
Sayegh, who was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s spokesman until June, helped the White House manage the messaging around passing tax reform, seen as one of the key legislative successes of the administration, ingratiated himself with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. White House advisers, including Kushner who pushed for his hiring, are now hoping Sayegh can do the same around the thus far disorganized response to impeachment.
At Treasury, Sayegh gave himself the nickname “tax man” and even had the cafeteria change his name on his seating place cards to read Tony “tax man” Sayegh in a Trump-style branding effort, according to an administration official.
A few months after leaving the Treasury Department, Sayegh joined the consulting firm Teneo, a move that raised eyebrows among some administration officials because of Teneo’s ties to the Clintons — it was founded by a former lawyer for Bill Clinton and an economic envoy for Northern Ireland under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Bondi joined lobbying firm Ballard Partners in January, where one of her clients was the Embassy of Qatar. A person familiar with Bondi’s lobbying arrangement said she would be leaving Ballard Partners and stop working on all her current client accounts as of early next week.
It could be several weeks before she joins the White House, the person said, adding that her background check isn’t yet complete. That person said Bondi is currently expected to only be at the White House for four months, though she could ultimately stay through the re-election campaign.
Sayegh's assignment at the White House is also expected to be a temporary one.
The move raises possible ethics questions about whether there will need to be a firewall between Sayegh and Bondi’s private sector work and White House work. Trump administration officials are supposed to be banned for five years from lobbying any agency they worked for — and restricted from having contact with the White House for a year after they leave — under an executive order Trump signed in his first days in office, though the administration has granted many exemptions to current staffers.