Fox News’s Sean Hannity staged a spectacular meltdown at Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Tuesday night, over Romney’s desire to hear testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser whose forthcoming book relates that Trump didn’t want to release nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until its president carried out Trump’s political bidding.
Hannity’s performance illustrates how preposterously weak Trump’s defenses have become, and how heavily they depend on insulating Trump’s extraordinary corruption, and the lies justifying it, from contrary facts and legitimate outside scrutiny.
Notably, this comes after Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona became a Trump-movement hero for staging her own ugly outburst at a reporter who politely asked whether she wanted to hear new witnesses and evidence at Trump’s impeachment trial.
If Hannity seemed frantic, it’s because it’s now possible four GOP senators will vote to open up the proceedings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly doesn’t have the 51 GOP votes he needs to block this — for now, anyway.
Romney has been privately trying to persuade fellow Republicans to hear from Bolton, arguing that Bolton appears to have “relevant information." This led Hannity to unload on the senator. Watch here:
“All I see, with all due respect Mitt Romney, is your personal hatred for Donald Trump,” Hannity raged, noting that the Senate should not do what the House failed to do — hear from Bolton and others.
Of course, the House failed to do this because Trump blocked witnesses and documents from the House impeachment inquiry, which is why Bolton refused to appear. Since then, Bolton has volunteered to testify to the Senate if called.
What this really means is that, if GOP senators vote against hearing new information, they’ll be carrying Trump’s coverup through to completion. This is what Hannity is actually raging at Romney for failing to facilitate.
Trump himself is demanding that GOP senators carry his coverup through to completion. He just went on a massive Twitter tirade at Bolton, saying this:
Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this “nonsense” a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020
This is misdirection: In reality, Bolton privately told Trump directly to his face in August that he objected to Trump’s freezing of military aid. In his new book, he reportedly elaborates on that conversation by detailing that Trump linked the aid directly to the sham investigation of Joe Biden he wanted Ukraine to announce.
This is one of the conversations — there are surely others — that Trump does not want Bolton to recount under oath. He also does not want the Senate to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who was in the middle of freezing the aid at Trump’s direction.
And so, Trump is demanding precisely what Hannity is demanding: Trump must be acquitted while simultaneously being allowed to exclude the testimony — to the House inquiry and to the Senate trial — of those who directly interacted with him over one of the most corrupt acts at the center of this whole saga.
Thus, they are explicitly demanding a rigged trial, because a real one is too risky. Indeed, this is precisely why McConnell is urging GOP senators to oppose witnesses — because opening up the trial threatens additional, unpredictable revelations.
But a rigged trial can only produce a sham acquittal.
All they have left is lies
“I haven’t heard you talk about Quid Pro Quo Joe,” Hannity further vented at Romney. “I haven’t heard you talk about Zero Experience Hunter, either. I haven’t heard you ask for them to be called as witnesses.”
Hannity then elaborated on this “Quid Pro Joe” moniker, mimicking Biden by saying: “You’re not getting the billion unless you fire the prosecutor who’s investigating my zero experience son.” Hannity also suggested Trump’s concern over this justified the withheld aid.
That entire narrative is based on lies. Biden’s withholding of loan guarantees from Ukraine to leverage the ousting of a Ukrainian prosecutor had nothing to do with Hunter Biden or his role on Ukrainian company Burisma’s board. Removing the prosecutor was U.S. policy, backed by GOP senators and international institutions, because that prosecutor was actually facilitating Ukrainian corruption. The investigation into Burisma was at that time dormant, and Hunter Biden wasn’t investigated.
These lies are pivotal to Trump’s defense: You see, Trump didn’t withhold the aid to get Ukraine to investigate a domestic political rival; he did it out of legitimate concerns over corruption. Yes, he explicitly singled out the Bidens. But … the Bidens were indeed corrupt! Presto: All Trump actually cared about was corruption!
This defense, of course, depends on conceding to Trump the power to make the lies about the Bidens into controlling and exonerating truths, simply through the force of repeating them. If we don’t concede that power — if we insist that facts matter — the entire superstructure of lies-turned-fake-truths collapses.
That’s why Hannity’s rage at Romney is so instructive. Hannity, Trump and others, through force of repetition, have carefully and instrumentally erected this superstructure of lies to insulate Trump, to create a zone in which he can abuse his powers in any way he sees fit, with no accountability to legitimate scrutiny or even to reality itself.
The refusal to join in making these lies true — the insistence that contrary information outside this disinformation bubble is relevant, or indeed that it exists at all — is the ultimate act of Trump “hatred.”