Trump dismisses need for impeachment advisers: 'I'm the team'

The president's aides have been urging the White House to come up with a more coordinated messaging strategy.
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"I don't have teams," the president told reporters Friday. "I'm the team. I did nothing wrong."Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

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By Shannon Pettypiece

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed the need for additional help in countering Democrats' impeachment efforts despite pleas from outside advisers for a more coordinated response from the White House.

In a comment reminiscent of his "I alone can fix it" declaration in accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Trump told reporters gathered on the White House South Lawn that he will be the one leading the fight when it comes to responding to impeachment.

"Here's the thing. I don't have teams, everyone's talking about teams," Trump said. "I'm the team. I did nothing wrong."

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Trump's allies have been imploring the White House to develop a more organized structure to respond to what they see as a growing threat to the presidency. A number have suggested Trump follow the war-room model set up by the Clinton White House that kept President Bill Clinton out of the daily fray of impeachment, leaving the day-to-day combat to surrogates with coordinated talking points.

The Clinton White House was "on message every day," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a news conference Thursday.

"President Clinton defended himself, but he never stopped being president," Graham added. "I think one of reasons he survived is that the public may not have liked what the president had done but believed that he was still able to do his job, and, as he governed during impeachment, I think that was the single best thing he did."

Trump senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been searching for someone to put into a chief strategist role who would be singularly focused on the administration's internal and external response to impeachment, said people familiar with the discussions.

That would create a clear line of command over who is leading the efforts and help coordinate the response between the White House and other departments pulled into the inquiry, which now includes the State, Energy and Defense departments.

Instead, there has been an internal tug-of-war between top White House lawyer Pat Cipillone and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who have both sought to take control of the response and also have other responsibilities well beyond impeachment to focus on, the people said.

That's left surrogates with a confused mixture of talking points. Even Mulvaney was unable to stick to a straight message during a press briefing this month when he admitted the president had held up aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate 2016 election interference, a statement he tried to walk back hours later.

CORRECTION (Oct. 25, 2019, 4:15 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Trump said, "I alone can fix it." It was in accepting the Republican presidential nomination, not at his inauguration.