Now the House is about to deliver the impeachment articles — and suddenly Trump has lost enthusiasm for a trial.
“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial,” Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon, “rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!”
Lest “many believe” that was just a fleeting thought, Trump retweeted it Monday morning.
“Many believe,” of course, is Trump-speak for “I believe.” And I understand why “many believe” a fair Senate trial would hurt Trump, if it means producing the documents and witnesses Trump refused to provide to the House. His defenses would wither faster than his explanations for the assassination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani.
First, Trump said Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. interests. When lawmakers, including Republicans, said their classified briefings produced zero evidence of an imminent threat, Trump took his case to Fox News.
“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies” that Soleimani attacked, Trump declared.
But it turns out Trump believes this in the absence of evidence. Asked by CBS News’s Margaret Brennan on Sunday about whether there was a specific threat to four embassies, Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, replied: “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies.”
So, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Esper: “Was Trump embellishing?”
“I don’t believe so,” Esper replied. This is because Esper shares Trump’s evidence-free belief that Soleimani would have attacked four embassies.
This is fun! The truth is whatever Trump believes it to be — much as when he said his net worth was based on how he feels.
There was a time when people got in trouble for making things up like this. George W. Bush never lived down the infamous “Sixteen Words” in his 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
And when the Obama administration used talking points falsely claiming the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi was sparked by an anti-Islam video, Republicans answered with years of rage.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Obama White House officials “scumbags” that “lied about” the Benghazi attack. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said the administration “made up a tale” and declared it “worthy of investigation.”
But now Graham and McConnell can both be expected to embrace Trump’s faith-based defense, both on the “imminent” Iran threat and on the president’s innocence in the Ukraine affair. It brings to mind the “I Believe” number from the musical “The Book of Mormon.” (“I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob! … And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.”) A Republican just believes.
How would the I-believe defense play out in the Senate trial?
Chief Justice John Roberts: Did President Trump ask the government of Ukraine to announce investigations into a political opponent and a discredited theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election?
Cipollone: I don’t believe so.
Roberts: Did Trump withhold security aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting contingent on these investigations?
Cipollone: I believe otherwise.
Roberts: Did Trump direct officials to defy subpoenas and withhold documents?
Cipollone: I believe you are mistaken.
Graham: Move to dismiss!
Trump, after expressing his newfound belief that a Senate trial wouldn’t help his case, moved on to sharing other beliefs Monday with his Twitter followers, including a belief that “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare” and a belief that “the corrupted Dems [are] trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.” His evidence for the latter belief: a doctored picture of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing Muslim garb in front of an Iranian flag.
It’s a safe bet that when the trial begins late this week or early next, Trump’s Senate sycophants will seek the dismissal he requested. Others may try to blow up proceedings by hauling in Hunter Biden. I’d like to think the requisite four Republican senators will join Democrats in demanding a legitimate trial.
But I’ll believe it when I see it.
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