Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump and his press secretary both have said recently the White House is operating efficiently and in unison in its response to the impeachment inquiry House Democrats are leading on Capitol Hill.

But a story in Tuesday’s Washington Post says a feud between two West Wing heavyweights threatens the ability of Trump and his administration to respond to the impeachment charges.

We may be able to see for ourselves in coming days as the Democrats begin open hearings on their impeachment inquiry, Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Rachel Bade reported for the Post in “White House infighting flares amid impeachment inquiry” – subhead: “A dispute erupts between the Mulvaney and Cipollone camps over how to counter House Democrats’ impeachment push.”

But otherwise, we have to take the Post’s word for it because this story, like many Post stories before it that attempted to dish dirt on internal problems in the Trump White House, lacks any credible sourcing.

The lead asserts: “The White House’s bifurcated and disjointed response to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry has been fueled by a fierce West Wing battle between two of President Trump’s top advisers, and the outcome of the messy skirmish could be on full display this week, according to White House and congressional officials.”

The Post says acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney “has urged aides not to comply with the inquiry and blocked any cooperation with congressional Democrats” and that “top political aides at the Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney once led, have fallen in line with his defiant stance.”

It does not say what is defiant about the stance, as opposed to legally prudent in the face of the Democrats’ onslaught. It attributes these sentences to “officials” who were “speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the behind-the-scenes developments,” but it does not say whether these are officials of the U.S. government, whether they work at the White House now or ever or whether they are even allies or opponents.

It provides no sourcing at all to the claim that “Mulvaney’s office blames White House counsel Pat Cipollone for not doing more to stop other government officials from participating in the impeachment inquiry, as a number of State Department officials, diplomats and an aide to Vice President Pence have given sworn testimony to Congress.”

Cipollone did not want Mulvaney to hold the press conference at which he said of course Trump had sought a quid pro quo – investigate corruption or lose U.S. aid – and since “has fumed that Mulvaney only made matters worse,” according to “two senior Trump advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

It says former national security adviser John Bolton also was furious with Mulvaney for trying to join a lawsuit filed by a former Bolton aide that sought to determine whether executive branch employees, such as Bolton, his aide and Mulvaney, could be compelled to testify before Congress. It referred to earlier Post reporting on this matter, which also was based on anonymous sources. It said “several administration officials” were “baffled” by Mulvaney’s attempt to join the lawsuit – he has since decided to file his own – and attributed that to “people familiar with the matter.”

People who work at the Office of Management and Budget have “watched in dismay as political appointees at the OMB took the highly unusual step of overruling the concerns of career staffers to hold up the Ukraine military aid, according to multiple former agency officials who remain in touch with current employees and spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect career staffers.”

Who did put their name with their quote? White House officials.

“We are one team and we work well together. The palace intrigue stories are false and they need to stop,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email.

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