Leon Panetta on White House’s Impeachment Strategy: ‘The President Has No Clear Defense’

Leon Panetta on White House’s Impeachment Strategy: ‘The President Has No Clear Defense’

Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, is doubting the effectiveness of the impeachment strategy launched by the White House and some Republicans in Congress.

“I think the Republicans are getting bad legal advice,” Panetta said Friday in response to a report that the GOP is considering pinning the blame for the Ukraine investigation on President Trump’s close allies rather than the president himself.

“The one thing that’s obvious to me in the face of overwhelming evidence here with regard to these charges is that the president has no clear defense,” Panetta told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. “He’s been flailing.”

Panetta noted how the president has resorted to denigrating the character of non-partisan government officials since his attacks on substantive issues have fallen flat. Trump has also claimed to “hardly know” his own appointees only after they reveal information he feels threatened by.

“All you have to do is look at the transcript,” the former CIA director and secretary of defense said. “It’s the president who’s basically saying, ‘Do me a favor and investigate the Bidens.'”

In the transcript — which is not an exact word-for-word account of President Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine — Trump referred often to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is one of the top figures Republicans may argue should take the fall for his client.

Giuliani has repeatedly been singled out by witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry as instrumental in the effort to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on one of Trump’s political rivals, with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent telling lawmakers he orchestrated a “campaign of lies.”

Giuliani himself has hired his own lawyers as prosecutors investigate his interactions with two foreign nationals arrested on campaign finance charges.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to somehow say that the president knew nothing about this,” Panetta concluded, “and that others were operating on their own.”

Watch the video above, via CNN.

William Vaillancourt

William Vaillancourt is a writer and editor from New Hampshire whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Progressive, Slate and Areo Magazine, among other places. He holds a BA in Political Science and History from Boston University.