“What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday. “It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.”
Not only has evidence continued to mount that the Trump administration engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, but the incoherent/incompetent defense has been regularly employed by Trump and his allies, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
Let’s run through them:
1. Election coordination with Russia
Trump repeatedly dismissed the 22-month-long Russia investigation, declaring at least 231 times that there was “no collusion.”
Defending Trump, former campaign aides at times went further: Not only was there no collusion, but Trump was too disorganized to collude with Russia, even if he wanted to.
It was a defense lodged by Trump campaign aides including Jared Kushner, Stephen K. Bannon, Corey Lewandowski and Michael Caputo.
But special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not make a determination on “collusion” and said there was not sufficient evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election. Mueller also said the Trump campaign welcomed Russian help.
2. The Trump Tower meeting
Donald Trump Jr. downplayed his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, in part, by suggesting it is a common thing for campaigns to do.
“For me, this was opposition research,” Trump Jr. said on Fox News in July 2017.
Mueller later declined to prosecute Trump Jr. and the meeting’s other participants, in part, because he could not prove they acted “with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct.”
3. Asking then-FBI Director James B. Comey to drop an investigation of then-national security adviser Michael Flynn
Shortly after meeting with Trump in the Oval Office in February 2017, Comey wrote a memo about the encounter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to Comey’s memo.
When Comey testified four months later, Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) threw cold water on the notion that Trump was somehow trying to end the investigation.
“Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice, or for that matter, any other criminal offense, where this — they said, or thought, they hoped for an outcome?” Risch asked.
In fact, a court had previously ruled that “I hope” constituted obstruction of justice.
4. Trump’s disclosure of classified intelligence to Russians
Six days after Trump revealed highly classified information to two top Russian officials in May 2017, then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster sought to downplay it.
“He shares information in a way that is wholly appropriate. . . . The president wasn’t even aware, you know, where this information came from,” McMaster said. “He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information, either.”
5. Trump’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels
When asked in April 2018 about hush-money payments to silence a porn star with whom he allegedly had an affair, Trump pleaded ignorance.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney,” Trump said.
Months later, it became clear that Trump lied about not knowing about the payments.
6. Potential Ukraine quid pro quo
The incoherent/incompetent defense of Trump’s Ukraine actions offered by Graham this week were first floated by the Wall Street Journal editorial board in October and later by Fox News’s Brit Hume.
“It’s just bluster,” Hume said of Trump’s foreign policy “inexperience.”
“Impeachment for incompetence would disqualify most of the government, and most Presidents at some point or another in office,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote.
Not only did Trump reportedly complain about the Wall Street Journal op-ed (“If I wanted to do quid pro quo, I would’ve done the damn quid pro quo”), but it was Trump in 2014 who proposed impeaching President Barack Obama for the same thing his defenders now attribute to him: incompetence.