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White House plans "aggressive" strategy to counter open impeachment hearings

W.H. plans to respond in impeachment hearing

President Trump is expected to watch some of the impeachment inquiry hearings on TV Wednesday, White House officials told CBS News, and staff will be set up to "react in real time" with a "rapid response."  

The impeachment inquiry stems from a whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about a July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the call, Mr. Trump urged Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden, as well as a conspiracy theory that Ukraine has a server related to the 2016 hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee.

On Wednesday, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent will testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Here's what to expect in response, White House officials told CBS News:

President Trump will be watching the hearings — at least in part — on television. However, the White House does not expect him to be sitting in front of a TV focused solely on the hearings.

The response team will include staffers from the White House press and communications teams, as well as the White House counsel and legislative affairs offices.

The White House will be "aggressively pushing back on TV, radio, in print, with digital efforts," including Twitter. The White House will also emphasize what they believe is "incredibly unfair process" by the Democrats.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is likely to put out a statement when the hearings conclude.

The White House is planning on not only getting its message out on a national level but also to local and regional outlets.

In the past several weeks, the White House has been meeting with Republican lawmakers in an effort to have a unified front against Democrats. The president or senior staff has met with 120 House members and 42 Senators. While most of the meetings have taken place at the White House, some have occurred at Camp David over the past several weekends, with 40 congressman making overnight visits to the presidential retreat in Maryland— a rarity for even some of the most senior of the representatives. It hasn't been all work — visits have included two movie nights (no word on which movies, however).

Teams have been coordinating daily with surrogates and pro-Trump groups. White House officials also said that the president has sent envoys from the White House "every day" to meet with House Republican "communicators" on messaging for impeachment.

The officials reiterated that the White House plans to soon release the transcript of President Trump's first call with Zelensky, which occurred in April. This call, they say, "will further emphasize how the president's conversations prove he did nothing wrong." 

There are three key messages the White House is pushing: "The president has done nothing wrong. Read the transcript," the senior White House official said, echoing the president's frequent tweets regarding the call with Zelensky.

Second, "whether you're Republican, Democrat or independent, you understand fundamental fairness, and due process under the Constitution is not being granted. It is not being given," a senior White House official said. "People understand that at its core." 

And third, "Democrats are doing nothing else," referring to inaction in Congress. 

"You can't just activate this [effort] this week. This stuff has to be built out over time," the official said. " And we have built it. It is ready to go." 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says his committee's goal "is to present the facts in a serious and sober manner."

Democrats are relying on this week's witnesses to "begin to flesh out the details of the president's effort to coerce a foreign nation to engage in political investigations designed to help his campaign, a corrupt undertaking that is evident from his own words on the July 25 call record," Schiff said.

According to a Democratic aide working on the inquiry, it will be incumbent on Republicans or the White House to "either provide exculpatory evidence — or explain to the American people why it's okay for a President to use the power of his office to taint our elections in his favor."

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