Facing the threat of impeachment, US President Donald Trump has launched a ferocious counter-attack with the help of Republican loyalists in Congress, media allies and a stream of angry tweets.
Veering wildly between rage, defiance and self-pity, Trump is seeking to undo the political damage from asking Ukraine’s leader to conduct an investigation into his potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden, and a possible White House cover-up.
“We’re at war,” the 73-year-old president declared.
For the coming fray, Trump has enlisted his allies in Congress and the media to try to shift the focus away from any wrongdoing by him and on to Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president.
A list of White House talking points to Republican supporters in Congress for responding to the fallout from the Ukraine scandal launched by an anonymous whistleblower was accidentally emailed to Democratic lawmakers this week.
The document listed “myths” and “facts” that Republican lawmakers should address when publicly discussing the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted the Democratic-led House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquiry for abuse of power.
“The real scandal here is that leaks about a second-hand account of the President’s confidential telephone call with a foreign leader triggered a media frenzy of false accusations against the president,” it said.
“The president didn’t do anything wrong,” said Mark Meadows, a Republican congressman from North Carolina, in a clip from an interview on Fox Business Network retweeted by Trump.
Andy Biggs, a Republican congressman from Arizona, in another clip retweeted by Trump from an interview with Fox Business, said the treatment of the president by Democrats is “outrageous.”
“Their real motive is to affect the election next year,” Biggs said.
Trump sought to turn the Ukraine scandal to his electoral advantage on Friday, repeating unsubstantiated allegations against the Bidens in an ad for his 2020 reelection campaign.
“Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company,” a narrator intones ominously as eerie music plays in the background.
“But when President Trump asks Ukraine to investigate corruption the Democrats want to impeach him and their media lapdogs fall in line,” the narrator says. “They lost the election. Now they want to steal this one.”
The accusations against the Bidens have been pursued for months by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and the US president asked Zelensky to “look into” them with the former mayor of New York.
The charge is that Joe Biden sought the removal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to shield his son from a corruption probe into the gas company where Hunter Biden held a lucrative position on the board.
But Hunter Biden has not been officially accused of any wrongdoing and by all accounts Joe Biden sought the dismissal of the prosecutor because the US, Western European countries and the IMF all believed he was not tough enough on corruption.
The White House narrative on Trump and Biden has been echoed by Fox talk show hosts sympathetic to the president, but not by everybody on the news side.
“The spinning that’s been done by the president’s defenders over the last 24 hours since this very damaging whistleblower complaint came out — the spinning is not surprising, but it is astonishing and I think deeply misleading,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Friday.
“To dismiss this as a political hack seems to me to be an effort by the president’s defenders to try to make nothing out of something and there is something there,” Wallace said.
Trump for his part has been vigorously defending himself on Twitter, taking aim at the “partisan” whistleblower and the “Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party.”
“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” Trump thundered to his nearly 65 million followers.
“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he complained. “A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats!”
Trump has stepped up personal attacks on those he perceives as his enemies as he searches for a handy phrase like the “No collusion, no obstruction” with which he dismissed the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman from California spearheading the impeachment inquiry in the House, has been a favorite target with Trump, calling him “corrupt” and a “sick man” who should resign.