As a House impeachment inquiry begins and media outlets continue to uncover new details of what appears to be a campaign by Donald Trump, his personal lawyer and multiple top administration officials to use the powers of the presidency to extort campaign favors from a U.S. ally, Republicans took to the Sunday shows to (1) limit the damage and (2) compete among each other for Trump’s attentions.
It did not go well. Trump’s most vocal allies have long been assured of favorable treatment, on the networks, but defending apparent high crimes against the nation is a heavy lift, and the Republican ranks contain few, at this point, capable of making any case other than the one laid out for them in someone else’s talking points.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who slithered from the late Sen. John McCain’s side into Trump’s pockets the very moment it became clear McCain would not return to the Senate, gave the sputtering sound bite of the day.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: The whistleblower complaint is just hearsay.MARGARET BRENNAN: But the whistleblower complaint is matched by the call record in numerous ways.
GRAHAM: Well, you’ve got an opinion, I’ve got an opinion.
You know your defense of high crimes is going well when you are cribbing your most cogent arguments from The Big Lebowski.
Republicans have evidently landed on “hearsay” as the predominant pushback to the White House’s own release of the White House readout between Trump and the Ukrainian president after the nation’s press reported that a “whistleblower report” being withheld from Congress by the administration charged … exactly what was revealed in that phone call. After discussing the military aid Trump had withheld from the at-war Ukraine, Trump requested a “favor” from Zelensky: Work with Trump’s personal lawyer and his attorney general to produce information damaging to his political opponents, past and present.
No matter how many other scandals Trump has been mired in, making an official request that a foreign government provide him election help in exchange for military aid is such an on-the-nose example of official corruption that even the most aggressive of Trump’s defenders has been reduced to sputtering out a handful of talking points, all of them deployed to evade acknowledgement of what the White House, in its own readout, confirmed to have happened.
An over-caffinated Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, still unable to find his missing coat, appeared to believe that painting the CNN studio walls with all of the talking points was his ticket to a successful outing. Not only was this unsuccessful, as he pantomimed outrage over Whatever Trump Is Currently Lying About, but it resulted in host Jake Tapper not only repeatedly correcting his lies but coming perilously close to a Sunday morning insult.
“The president’s daughter right now is having all sorts of copyrights granted in foreign countries; that doesn’t alarm you. The president’s sons are doing all sorts of business all over the world; that doesn’t alarm you. Either there’s a principle or there isn’t,” Tapper retorted.
“I would think somebody who’s been accused of things in the last year or two would be more sensitive about throwing out wild allegations against people,” he noted, referring perhaps too-obliquely to the numerous witnesses who have come forward to assert that Jordan knew about a pattern sexual abuse taking place while he was an assistant coach to the Ohio State University wrestling team.
As for the White House itself, it for some reason put forward white nationalist Stephen Miller as the day’s most prominent Trump defender. Miller’s “secret serial killer” demeanor is seldom helpful to the White House even in the best of his appearances, but he was woefully unprepared for what faced him this time around. Fox News host Chris Wallace lost all patience with Miller’s evasions.
And Trump “lawyer” Rudy Giuliani? He continued to make the rounds of whatever show would have him in an apparent bid to make things ever-worse. His contribution today was to insist he would not cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee as it investigates the charges against Trump—but would “consider” it if Rep. Adam Schiff was removed.
Not how it works, buddy. But Giuliani did make clear that Trump’s team was continuing, even now, their efforts to protect the Russian government from a full accounting of their actions in the 2016 elections. The new theory will be that it Actually was Ukraine that did the meddling, and it was Democrats behind it all, and that Great Hero Trump and his Russian companions will be the ones putting a stop to it. It does not need to make sense; the base will be chanting it regardless.