In recent weeks, Trump has told allies and friends that he wanted a splashy Senate trial with high-profile attorneys and witnesses such as Hunter Biden, son of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
But McConnell has been urging Trump to instead settle on a short trial; brevity allows the Senate greater control over the narrative without the unpredictability witness testimony can bring.
“Look, it is the U.S. Senate. It will never be that flashy,” said a Republican close to the White House.
In recent weeks, Cipollone has made several trips to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican senators over lunch, or with McConnell to chart the impeachment strategy. He also frequently speaks with the group of senators who also are lawyers such as Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when Alito served on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Aiding Cipollone’s outreach to Capitol Hill is the White House director of legislative affairs, Eric Ueland, a longtime veteran of Senate leadership and the former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee who’s known for his mastery of arcane Senate rules and procedures.
“The White House is lucky to have somebody who has a very good, experienced track record, and memory for a number of fights which seemed obscure at the time but that now have become relevant,” said Dave Hoppe, chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
“Eric was a senior staffer among Republican leadership staff when we were doing impeachment 21 years ago.”
During the Clinton impeachment, Ueland served as a senior staffer to Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who at the time was the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, and was part of a tiny group of staffers allowed to sit and work on the Senate floor, giving access to the country’s last impeachment trial.
“He has seen it done before,” Hoppe said even if the players and charges are now different.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney remains involved in the impeachment proceedings and attends impeachment meetings, even if Cipollone is taking the lead among staff on strategy. One senior administration official described Mulvaney’s role as convening allies and aides when needed, such as bringing lawmakers to Camp David in recent months in an effort to keep the Republican Party unified.
Jared Kushner, as one of the president’s most trusted aides, remains involved in impeachment when needed, according to two senior administration officials, alongside with his work in negotiating the U.S-Mexico-Canada trade deal, China trade deal, Middle East plan and running the 2020 campaign.
As the White House press secretary and communications director, Stephanie Grisham is overseeing the communications effort. She’s being helped temporarily by Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, and Tony Sayegh, a former top Treasury official and ally of Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Both Bondi and Sayegh have visited Capitol Hill several times in recent weeks to meet with Senate and House communicators to keep the White House and congressional messages in sync.
Even as White House officials find their spots in the impeachment lineup, several current and former administration officials cautioned that Trump as always remains the one to dictate the message and ideas.
“Everyone has resigned themselves to the idea that the president is always running everything,” said a former senior administration official.