Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made it clear last Friday that he intended to intervene in a lawsuit over whether current and former administration officials are required to comply with demands to testify in the impeachment inquiry. By Monday, the plaintiff (John Bolton acolyte Charles Kupperman) and defendants (House Democrats) both made it clear that they didn’t want Mulvaney involved. Later that day, Mulvaney withdrew his request to intervene and said he’d file his own lawsuit. On Tuesday, Mulvaney said he was no longer going to bother with any of that and will just stonewall as President Donald Trump desires.
Does this infuriate you? Apparently the sideshow infuriated Bolton allies and the White House. According to a CNN report from Tuesday, one anonymous individual “close to the White House” described Mulvaney’s machinations as “incomprehensible.” What’s more, President Trump was reportedly “aggravated” and White House officials (including the White House counsel’s office) were “angered” by multiple aspects of the situation:
Coverage of the scramble aggravated Trump, according to people familiar with the matter, who was frustrated at the perception he was pitted against his own chief of staff. Mulvaney ultimately reversed course Tuesday morning and fell in line with the White House to avoid further disruption, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
For many in the White House, it was an unnecessary subplot that only highlighted lingering internal divisions — both with the top lawyers inside the West Wing and with ousted national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton’s team rebuffed Mulvaney’s attempts to join a lawsuit meant to determine whether the acting chief of staff could testify and that would have given Mulvaney legal cover for at least a month.
This report comes out not long after other reports said Mulvaney isn’t worried about being fired because he knows too much. Mulvaney’s quid pro quo admission and subsequent attempted walk-back remains one of the more baffling happenings in recent days.
Former White House national security official Charles Kupperman initially filed the lawsuit last month after the Trump administration ordered him not to comply with a subpoena from House Democrats. Kupperman wanted a judge to decide whether he should or should not comply, but House Democrats withdrew the subpoena last Wednesday:
They asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, saying they would instead look for guidance in the outcome of similar litigation involving a subpoena to former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
The Don McGahn case is significant.
[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]