As President Donald Trump's White House battles impeachment, he turned to a familiar face last week: Mark Penn, one of President Bill Clinton's top strategists.
Penn came to the Oval Office for more than an hour last Monday, three people familiar with the meeting said, and brought polling data and impeachment advice for the president, reports The Washington Post.
Penn reassured Trump that he wouldn't be removed from office, according to people familiar with the meeting, and encouraged him to travel the country like Clinton did when he was fighting impeachment over 20 years ago, officials said.
Vice President Mike Pence and counselor Kellyanne Conway were also present for the meeting, where Diet Cokes were served. Penn was escorted by Andrew Stein, a longtime Trump friend from New York who recently penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for Nikki Haley to replace Pence on the ticket.
Penn recommended that Trump "stay focused on the substance" of the allegations surrounding trading access and aid for political favors from Ukraine, according to Stein, "and not respond to everything."
Trump has sent dozens of tweets attacking Democrats for waging an unfair battle against him and has regularly fixated on the impeachment process, according to current and former aides, while attacking his opponents as "DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS."
"You've got to govern," Penn told Trump of how Clinton handled the impeachment process, according to another person with knowledge of the meeting.
Penn's visit suggests the president is seeking information from a wide variety of sources as Congress' impeachment battle heats up and a possible vote by the House nears in mid-December. Officials say Trump has called a variety of TV personalities, lawmakers and longtime New York and Palm Beach friends to poll advisers on impeachment.
In a brief interview, Penn said repeatedly that he was not working for the president. "It's the second time I have ever met with the president. I'm not counseling him. I'm not advising him." Penn said he only discussed publicly available data with Trump but declined to be specific on his advice. "I don't get into presidential meetings."
At the meeting, the president proceeded to pull out a campaign map for the group showing how he won in 2016, a favored tactic of the president when visitors come into the Oval Office.
Stein also said that he "buried the hatchet" with Pence during the extended meeting. "I told Pence, the president wants him on the ticket and that's that," Stein said on Tuesday.
The president had previously told Pence that he did not appreciate Stein's op-ed suggesting Haley for the ticket and was not behind him writing it, White House officials said.
Democrats are moving into a new phase in their ongoing probe into whether Trump abused his office by requesting that the Ukrainians investigate his political rivals, Joe and Hunter Biden.
The House Intelligence Committee last week ended the public phase of its impeachment investigation and is expected to next week produce a report it will refer to the House Judiciary Committee, which is charged with drawing up potential articles of impeachment against Trump. If the full House approves such charges, a Senate trial would ensue.
It's not the first time that one of the architects of Clinton's campaign and impeachment strategy has visited with Trump. Trump met with Penn in February to discuss the 2020 campaign strategy and the Mueller investigation, aides said.
Trump is not personally close to Penn, who worked for Stein as his pollster in the 1980s, but admires his political strategy and TV appearances praising Trump, officials said.
Penn did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A former pollster and top aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Penn has served as a Microsoft executive and a corporate consultant in recent years. He wrote a 2017 op-ed in The Washington Post titled: "How To Fix the Democratic Party."
Penn has drawn scorn from Democrats for his appearances praising Trump and criticising Democrats.
Trump also asked Penn about his Harvard CAPS/Harris survey, according to Stein. The latest version of the survey conducted in September showed Trump's approval rate at 46 percent.