Aides insist the president is just as focused on policy issues, like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as he is on impeachment, but he is so engaged in the televised messaging effort that a weekly meeting to staff the Sunday shows takes place every Wednesday.
The participants range from Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor whom the president praised recently to aides aboard Air Force One as being “so quick,” to Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.
“Radio hits and TV interviews, especially Sunday shows, run my life,” said Alexa Henning, a special assistant who wakes up daily at 5:30 a.m. to book and prepare White House officials for media appearances. As a Senate committee heard testimony on Wednesday from the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, on his exhaustive report on the Russia investigation, she was unsure when her workday would end.
Other officials involved are Adam Kennedy, a deputy White House communications director, who is credited by his peers for being able to synthesize “reams and reams” of legal documents, testimonies and news articles quickly in the service of parsing them into talking points. The next stop on the conveyor belt is Julia Hahn, a former Breitbart editor whom at least one surrogate has gently chided for emailing out so many talking points in real time that they have been mistaken for spam. (“You’re welcome,” a senior official quipped.)
While the press staff speaks on a range of other issues, the newest additions, Mr. Sayegh and Ms. Bondi, are seen as having a single focus. But in practice, the lines have a way of blurring. Behind the scenes, other aides have complained about the two arriving after much of the groundwork to bring Republicans into the fold was already laid.
But the boss wants what the boss wants. Mr. Sayegh, a fellow New Yorker, is liked by the people the president trusts the most, including Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter, and Steven Mnuchin, his Treasury secretary. The president wanted Ms. Bondi on his impeachment team because she is a lawyer — a perk if you want more of them defending you on television.
Inside the White House, allies of Mr. Sayegh and Ms. Bondi have praised them for bringing order to a process that, just a month ago, saw Republican members of Congress veering off message. On a round of Sunday shows in early November, surrogates began suggesting that even if Mr. Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a political investigation, it would not be impeachable.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.