In a perverse way, it’s fitting that this episode is going viral at exactly the moment when President Trump’s impeachment trial is getting underway — that is, when Trump’s defenders in the Senate are set to put on a great show of pretending to give serious consideration to the case against Trump, before voting to acquit him.
McSally’s vile little performance puts the lie to that notion as effectively as anything possibly could.
What happened is that CNN’s Manu Raju, a hard-working reporter, dared to ask McSally whether new information surfacing about the conduct for which Trump has been impeached should lead GOP senators to admit new evidence at his impeachment trial.
McSally snidely brushed off the question and called Raju a “liberal hack.” Raju then tweeted a neutral description of what had happened.
McSally then proudly tweeted out a video of the episode:
The exchange went like this:
RAJU: Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?McSALLY: You’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you.RAJU: You’re not going to comment, Senator?McSALLY: You’re a liberal hack, buddy.
There’s been talk that McSally staged the episode to excite the Republican base. And indeed, Republicans are already using it to raise money for her reelection campaign, in which McSally is very vulnerable.
But, whether or not this was a setup, McSally is now treating this as something that will give her a political boost, which is just beyond pathetic.
Note that it is now seen as “liberal” to merely ask a Republican senator whether she feels any obligation to consider the full set of facts before exercising her constitutional duty to vote on whether articles of impeachment — passed by the elected representatives in the other chamber of Congress — merit removal.
What’s seen as “liberal” here, plainly, is that this question should be asked of Republican senators at all.
Look at the larger context here. Senate Republicans are hoping to pass, with 51 GOP votes, a process in which tough votes on whether to hear new witnesses and evidence are deferred until after opening statements are heard.
In so doing, they are already laying the groundwork to vote against hearing new witnesses and evidence at that point, while pretending they did so as part of a fair process in which they genuinely weighed the case against Trump delivered during those opening statements.
Some will shout that this is the same process used under then-President Bill Clinton. But in this case, Trump has already blocked the witnesses that Democrats want from testifying to the House — such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. This, even though they are the people with the most direct knowledge of the very conduct at issue here, i.e., Trump’s freezing of military aid as part of his extortion plot — conduct Trump claims is entirely innocent.
A handful of GOP senators — such as Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — might end up voting to hear new witnesses and evidence.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will try to get 51 votes against this, in keeping with his blithe promise to run Trump’s trial in absolute lockstep with Trump’s legal team. And McConnell might succeed. Yet he needs to worry about his vulnerable members, so he also wants to make it look as if the GOP Senate is taking its constitutional duties seriously.
So if Republicans succeed in nixing witnesses and evidence, they will then have to make it look as if this was part of a reasonable, considered, fair process.
This is getting harder by the minute, because the passage of time keeps serving up astounding new revelations. We’ve learned that concerns about the legality of the freeze on military aid ran far deeper inside the administration than we knew.
We’ve also learned that Lev Parnas, once a part of Trump’s Ukraine scheme, is now claiming, among other things, that Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani told him to tell Ukraine that the aid was conditioned on doing Trump’s bidding, after discussing it with Trump — a possible criminal conspiracy.
Trump’s GOP defenders in the Senate continue to pretend that none of this is incriminating, and that it doesn’t oblige them in the least to hear from the most direct witnesses to Trump’s motives in freezing that money. Indeed, McSally was snidely brushing off a reporter who dared to ask whether, in light of all this new information, senators have any such obligation.
This cannot be squared with impartiality, as much as senators (almost certainly including McSally) who vote against new witnesses and evidence will try to maintain the contrary. McSally’s outburst usefully ripped off the mask and dispensed with the pretense otherwise.