Given how nutty the president and his top aides sound, there is little wonder most Republican defenders sound desperate to change the subject, to throw accusations at former vice president Joe Biden and otherwise distract from the debacle that threatens to take down Trump and his party.
It would save a lot of time if interviewers could use a shorthand to bat down the ludicrous excuses. Numbering the weak excuses and their obvious flaws would at least save time. (No, Senator, that’s a No. 3! Let’s move on.) Here goes:
1. He was kidding. That’s what Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other hapless spinners are saying about his remarks on the White House grounds inviting China to dig for dirt on the former vice president. The problems with this one include: (a) His demeanor was not jocular and he spoke about Ukraine, which he absolutely did invite to intervene, in the same conversation, even the same sentences as China; (b) He reportedly did call President Xi Jinping. When the record of that call is released, I suppose Republicans will have to claim he was pulling a prank on Xi; and (c) How does this exonerate the president with regard to Ukraine?
2. The whistleblower is a no-good … The whistleblower’s claims have been confirmed by documents including the rough transcript of the July 25 call. His or her credibility is irrelevant now. We’ve got the goods.
4. It’s not worth impeaching him, especially so close to the election. (No, really, Rich Lowry of National Review offered this as an argument he could get behind: "The level and the magnitude of this offense does not justify impeaching and possibly removing a president 12 months before an election.”) This comes from the crowd who thought it essential to impeach President Bill Clinton in late 1998 for lying about an affair in a deposition. (Is this like the Merrick Garland rule — no impeachments in the last year?) It’s a bit mind-blowing to say that it’s just not that big a deal when the president repeatedly went to foreign powers to put their fingers on the scale of our elections, used taxpayer-funded aid as leverage, obstructed an investigation into this conduct and threatened a whistleblower — that he should be allowed to remain in office until the very election in which he is trying to drag foreigners. (Let him delegitimize the election first and then go? Does this come with a promise Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2020?) If all we are talking about is a year (not a year plus four), why doesn’t he just resign or say he won’t run? We would save the trouble of an impeachment in that case.
5. But Hunter Biden … First, the claim that former vice president Biden did anything untoward has been repeatedly, unequivocally debunked. It is not enough just to say that there is “no evidence.” Biden did not do what he is accused of doing (removing a prosecutor to protect his son); he executed the policy of the U.S. government and our allies to push out a prosecutor who was not rooting out corruption. Second, if Biden’s actions were a problem, why did Trump not care until Biden became the front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination and built a double-digit lead in polls against Trump? Third, if Biden were to drop out tomorrow, Trump would still have committed impeachable acts (e.g., withholding taxpayer-funded aid to get help eliminating a rival).
6. The deep state … Listen, sane adults should not spew crackpot conspiracy theories. Even the ones still defending Trump (e.g., Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, Pompeo) at one time all asserted Russia interference with our election. Period. Attempts to rewrite history by strong-arming our allies might be the best reason to impeach Trump.
So remember, the next time Ron Johnson goes off on the deep state, the interviewer can shout out: “No. 6!” When Jim Jordan says, “Just kidding,” the response is: “Forget it! That’s No. 1!” In truth, there is no valid excuse for doing what we now know Trump did. If we want a Constitution that means something, he’s got to go. If someone wants to talk immediate resignation, I’m all ears. Otherwise forget Nos. 1 to 6. Using these rotten excuses simply reveals the dishonesty and lack of patriotism of the people advancing them.