As we’ve noted in this space before, Republicans continue to have a hard time finding credible angles for defending President Trump against impeachment efforts in Congress. They’ve tried the “Sideshow Bob Defense” and the “Chewbacca Defense.” They’ve tried whatever it was that Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) attempted last Wednesday in arguing that every President has committed impeachable offenses.
Oftentimes Republican impeachment defenses get exploded by President Trump himself. Some in the GOP had been arguing that the impeachment process was moving along too fast and did not afford Trump the opportunity to defend himself, but as Dana Milbank explains for The Washington Post, both of those defenses are now moot:
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, in his letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Friday, undermined both complaints: The letter served as a formal answer from Trump refusing the Democrats’ invitation for him to defend himself in the House proceedings, and it instructed Democrats to hurry up.
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings,” it said, adding: “As the president has recently stated: ‘If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.’”
The Trump anti-impeachment “War Room” is now trying to focus its defense on allegations that Democrats are pursuing a pre-determined partisan strategy of ousting Trump without considering any evidence. As Justin Wingerter writes for The Denver Post, Team Trump made it a point to go after freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) on Sunday with a heavily-edited version of history for support:
“Democrat Congressman Joe Neguse LIES about his support for impeachment years ago — but we have the tape!” the Trump campaign said on social media Sunday afternoon, along with an edited clip of a Neguse appearance on cable news.
Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, was a guest on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he verbally sparred with David Urban, a member of the Trump 2020 advisory committee.
“Congressman, you were for impeachment before you were even sworn in. You said there was enough evidence before you heard one shred, did you not?” Urban asked Neguse.
“I’ll tell you this: There are a number of us who have ultimately long believed that this president has engaged in conduct that could be impeachable,” Neguse answered, before being interrupted by Urban, who again accused him of supporting impeachment before hearing a shred of evidence.
“That is not true, that is not true,” the congressman responded, speaking over Urban in a testy exchange. “The effort of so many Republican colleagues of mine to obfuscate away from the president’s egregious conduct and abuse of power is something that has shocked the conscience of many of my colleagues in the Democratic House. I honestly was taken aback by it.”
Team Trump is trying to prove its claim of bias by pointing to an MSNBC interview that Neguse conducted in November 2018. As you can see yourself, this interview does not do what Trumpians claim it does:
MSNBC HOST: Based on what you know now, do you think that there is evidence that would support impeaching President Trump?
NEGUSE: I do. I think that there is sufficient evidence in the public square to indicate that this President has violated the Constitution and ultimately has committed high crimes and misdemeanors that would warrant impeachment. There was a vote on the House floor over a year ago, in which Representative Green from Texas, I believe, essentially initiated the process by which a full investigation into whether the President has ultimately committed impeachable offenses could take place. I supported that then, and I support it now.
MSNBC HOST: Do you call on leaders of the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings?
NEGUSE: Well, look, I think it’s an important conversation that obviously our caucus is going to be having over the course of the next many weeks and obviously many months as the 116th Congress takes effect. I have not yet been sworn-in. I’m still a Congressman-elect, so I’m looking forward to having those conversations with my colleagues.
MSNBC HOST: Fair enough.
At no point does Neguse say that he supports the impeachment of President Trump. Neguse says that he believes there is enough evidence to warrant an impeachment investigation, which is a very different thing than saying that he thinks Trump should be impeached. Later, Neguse specifically avoids answering a question about whether he thinks House Democrats should move forward with impeachment proceedings. This video by Team Trump is edited to make Neguse’s remarks look much more sinister than they really were.
At this point, the only way to defend Trump against impeachment is to make things up out of whole cloth. We’re probably not far from the point where Trump apologists will claim that the first words Neguse spoke as an infant were, “Impeach Trump.”