White House braces for GOP losses and staff exodus


White House officials are largely resigned to losing Republican control of the US House and are bracing for an exodus of staff worried about a torrent of subpoenas from Democratic congressional investigators.
President Donald Trump’s team still sees a possible path to victory. But talk of a “red wave” has ceased, advisers inside and outside the White House said. Trump last uttered the boast in public in August. The mood around the president has darkened as many challengers continue to out-raise seasoned Republican incumbents and Democratic enthusiasm surpasses that of the GOP.
Bill Stepien, the White House director of political affairs, is already laying the groundwork to shift blame away from Trump should the party lose the House. He argued in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg that the GOP has been hindered by historical headwinds, a wave of incumbent retirements, and strong fundraising by Democratic challengers.
Trump has seized on the disparity in fundraising and privately complains Republican candidates haven’t done enough to raise money, one aide said.
The president’s determined to fight to the end, though, and plans to hold 10 rallies in eight states in the campaign’s final stretch. His team hopes to gain one or two seats in the Senate, where the electoral map is favourable to Republicans this year, and plans to stress its importance for continuing conservative judicial appointments, said one person familiar with the White House’s messaging strategy. Stepien set the bar lower, declaring in his memo that “not losing Senate seats” would be “a victory of historic proportions.”
In the House, Trump is battling to save seats that once would have been viewed as safe. On Saturday, that meant using valuable time 10 days before the election to fly to southern Illinois for a rally to shore up Representative Mike Bost, who is struggling against a Democratic challenger in a district Trump won by 15 percentage points in 2016.
White House aides are painfully aware of what a Democratic House would mean—two years of subpoenas, investigations, and obstruction. For staff already exhausted by the perpetual crises of the past two years, the post-election period will provide a natural exit ramp. Finding replacements for those staffers could be a struggle.
“How do you restaff with top quality folks knowing that you’re going to be subpoenaed? If you go in, you better be wealthy because you’re going to need to pay a lawyer,” said Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser who has had to hire his own lawyer to respond to inquiries about his time in the administration. “This whole thing is psychological warfare, and it’ll affect the ability to attract great people.”
Counsel’s Office
The White House Counsel’s Office, which usually handles the response to Congressional investigations, is unprepared for the task, said a person familiar with the situation. The new counsel, Pat Cipollone, named earlier this month to replace Don McGahn, arrives to face a heavily depleted staff. All but one of the office’s deputy counsels have left over the past year, and much of the remaining staff is likely to follow McGahn out, the person said. Cipollone, who once worked at the Department of Justice but has spent most of his career in private practice, has limited experience dealing with large-scale Washington investigations.
Still, Trump’s team had been encouraged in recent weeks following the battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the emergence of the so-called migrant caravan, both of which the White House saw increasing Republican enthusiasm about the elections.

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