President Donald Trump, irritated at being impeached for a second time, has told people to stop paying Rudy Giuliani’s legal fees, a person familiar with the matter tells CNN, though aides were not clear if the President was serious about his instructions given he’s lashing out at nearly everyone after the day’s events.
Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice on Wednesday, one week after a mob stormed the US Capitol following a speech by the President that galvanized his supporters to fight against the counting of the electoral votes that would affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win. The insurrection left five people dead, including one Capitol Police officer, and has left the nation’s capital and state capitols around the country preparing for potential violence as Biden is set to be inaugurated next week.
Trump has been blaming his longtime personal attorney and many others for the predicament he now finds himself in, though he has not accepted any responsibility in public or in private, people familiar with his reaction told CNN. Giuliani is still expected to play a role in Trump’s impeachment defense but has been left out of most conversations thus far.
Trump’s campaign senior adviser Jason Miller seemed to push back on reports Trump was souring on Giuliani, though did not deny the President had told associates not to pay him.
“Just spoke with President Trump, and he told me that @RudyGiuliani is a great guy and a Patriot who devoted his services to the country! We all love America’s Mayor!” Miller wrote on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, John Eastman, the conservative attorney who falsely told Trump that Vice President Mike Pence could block the certification of Biden’s win, could join Trump’s legal team defending him in the upcoming impeachment trial, a person familiar with the matter said.
The discussions are still preliminary and Eastman isn’t yet formally a part of the team. Chapman University, where Eastman had been working as a professor, announced Wednesday it had “reached an agreement pursuant to which he will retire from Chapman, effective immediately” following discussions this week.
“Dr. Eastman’s departure closes this challenging chapter for Chapman and provides the most immediate and certain path forward for both the Chapman community and Dr. Eastman,” Struppa said.”Chapman and Dr. Eastman have agreed not to engage in legal actions of any kind, including any claim of defamation that may currently exist, as both parties move forward.”
Another source of Trump’s ire is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who incensed Trump further on Wednesday by saying he bears responsibility for last week’s riot. The President had already been upset with McCarthy after the California Republican left the option of censuring Trump on the table in a letter to colleagues earlier this week.
The details about Giuliani’s legal fees were first reported by the Washington Post.
The President is now more isolated than ever. Several of his Cabinet secretaries — the ones who haven’t resigned in protest — are avoiding him, his relationship with the vice president remains fractured and several of his senior staffers are scheduled to depart their posts this week.
One White House adviser told CNN that “everybody’s angry at everyone” inside the White House, with the President being upset because he thinks people aren’t defending him enough.
“He’s in self-pity mode,” the source said, with Trump complaining he’s been under siege for five years and he views this latest impeachment as a continuation of that.
But many people close to Trump view the current situation as different than his first impeachment, when he was charged with pressuring the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden to try and influence the presidential election.
“His actions led to here, no one else,” the White House adviser said, adding, “He instigated a mob to charge on the Capitol building to stop the certification, he’s not going to find a lot of sympathetic Republicans.”
During the last impeachment effort, Trump allies in and out of the White House publicly defended him and sent out talking points throughout the impeachment proceeding.
No similar effort materialized this time, with House Republican leadership deciding against pressuring their colleagues to stay in line and instead allowing them to vote their conscience. Ten Republicans voted with every Democrat to pass the single article of impeachment.
After the House voted to impeach him, Trump released a video statement that did not mention the historic development that had occurred a few hours earlier. Instead, he delivered a call for calm as the threat of new riots — which Trump said he’d been briefed on by the Secret Service — casts a pall over Washington. Later, an official described the briefing as “sobering” and said it contributed to Trump’s decision to tape the video.
“No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag,” he said from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“Now I am asking everyone who has ever believed in our agenda to be thinking of ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country,” he said.
Trump’s Oval Office speech came only after advisers talked him into taping it, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump had seemed reluctant to tape the videos, in part because he believes they make him look like he’s caving to pressure to tone down his stance on the election.
“Silence is not an option,” is how one source described one of the conversations, adding “we need to break the cycle.”
His first video on the day of the insurrection came partly at the urging of his daughter Ivanka Trump, but the President threw out the script his team had prepared and ad-libbed most of it, including the line telling the rioters “we love you.”
The subsequent videos have been more tightly scripted, with heavy input from the White House counsel’s office on the text. Trump has read them from teleprompters set up by the White House Communications Agency as senior officials look on, ensuring he does not diverge from the words as written.
Advisers have repeatedly urged him to tape the spots, citing both the potential legal implications of inciting the riot and the desire from fellow Republicans that he show a willingness to lower the temperature among his supporters.
Trump was also warned that if he didn’t speak out he could be even more legally exposed — with potential civil lawsuits and more, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
With his favorite mode of communication — Twitter — no longer available to him after Trump was banned from the social network on Friday, another person close to the White House worried that Trump may lash out further.
“He’s been holed up in the residence, that’s never a good thing. He’s by himself, not a lot of people to bounce ideas off of — whenever that happens he goes to his worst instincts,” that person said. “Now that Twitter isn’t available God only knows what the outlet will be.”