Donald Trump’s decision to hire former Republican congressman and Benghazi committee chairman Trey Gowdy roiled his outside legal team — and the president now says his entry into the impeachment inquiry will be delayed.
Trump claimed Thursday that federal lobbying rules prevent the ex-lawmaker from representing him.
‘I think Trey Gowdy is terrific guy. I think there’s a problem with he can’t start for another couple of months because of lobbying rules and regulations,’ he claimed.
Trump said reporters would ‘have to ask’ why the legal work is prohibited and declared: ‘I just heard Trey Gowdy can’t start until sometime after January because of the lobbying rules and regulations. So, I don’t know. So, we’ll have to see.’
Attorney Jay Sekulow had confirmed in a Wednesday night statement that Gowdy would be working himself and Rudy Giuliani, but he did not return a request for comment Friday.
Trump lawyer Victoria Toensing made it clear in a Yahoo News interview before the president’s remarks that Gowdy’s assistance was not welcome: ‘He’s not on the team. Trey Gowdy is not on the team. Who told you Trey Gowdy? Not to my knowledge, not to Rudy’s knowledge, not Joe’s knowledge.’
‘I have to check that with Rudy because that would be a joke, because we all don’t think much of him,’ she said. ‘Are you kidding? … Trey is a joke among us.’
Trey Gowdy, seen here when he was a Republican congressman on Capitol Hill, will lead the impeachment fight for Donald Trump
Gowdy was seen at the White House on Tuesday, generating speculation that he could be taking on a new role in Trump’s orbit.
He is currently a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Gowdy will not be joining the White House staff. He will work outside of the administration with the president’s other attorneys.
Sekulow said in a Wednesday evening statement: ‘I am pleased to announce that former Congressman Trey Gowdy is joining our team as counsel to the president.
‘I have known Trey for years and worked with him when he served in Congress. His legal skills and his advocacy will serve the president well,’ he said. ‘Trey’s command of the law is well known and his service on Capitol Hill will be a great asset as a member of our team.’
During his time in Congress, the South Carolina lawmaker came to national prominence for chairing the House’s select committee on Benghazi, a panel that examined the 2012 terrorist attack there and also helped discover the secret, private email server of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He also served on the House Intelligence Committee when Representative Adam Schiff was the ranking Democrat on the panel, making Gowdy familiar with the man leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The former prosecutor did not seek re-election in 2018, saying he wanted to return to his legal career.
Gowdy was at the White House Tuesday to meet with President Trump
In Washington, there was speculation Trump could appoint him to the federal bench, but Gowdy joined a law firm and took a gig as a contributor to Fox News.
A FOX News spokesperson said Gowdy has been terminated and is no longer a contributor, the network announced on Wednesday afternoon.
His addition to the Trump team is an indication the White House has realized it needs outside fire power in its battle over impeachment.
Trump, initially, had seemed opposed to setting up the kind of war room that Bill Clinton aides established in the 1990s to fight his impeachment inquiry.
The president sees himself as his own best communicator and takes to Twitter to fight his own battles.
And the administration issued its declaration of political war against Democrats on Tuesday when White House Counsel Pat Cipollone fired off a scathing eight-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats leading the impeachment effort, accusing them of trying to overturn the 2016 election with their probe.
‘Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen,’ he wrote.
Cipollone also announced that neither the president nor his staff would cooperate in the impeachment inquiry.
‘Your unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice,’ he wrote. ‘In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.’
Trey Gowdy came to national prominence when he chaired the House’s select committee on Benghazi, where then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified in 2015
White House counsel Pat Cipollone included political red meat in his scathing letter to Democrats on impeachment
Trump has attacked both Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi had a strong response of her own to the letter in a Tuesday evening statement.
‘Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable,’ she said. ‘This letter is manifestly wrong, and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections.’