The GOP Gaslights Impeachment
Plus: How damning is the new Trump tape?
“That never happened/I never said/did that.” — “Being Gaslighted? Know the 10 Signs and How to Protect Yourself”
We’ll get to Trump’s laughing confessions in a moment, but let’s start with the latest episode of political counter-reality: “Kevin McCarthy Backs MTG-Led Push to 'Expunge' Trump Impeachments.”
"I think it is appropriate, just as I thought before, that you should expunge it, because it never should have gone through," the California Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s impeachments? They never happened. His attempt to extort the Ukrainian president? Erased. Inciting an insurrection? Attempting to overturn the election? Deleted.
This, apparently, is the new hotness in the GOP.
Alas for My Kevin, expunging impeachments is not really a thing in the law or the constitution.
"The reality of it is, you're not -- you can't expunge the impeachment," explained former RNC chairman Michael Steele. “You can take it out of the official Congressional Record, but it doesn't change history, it doesn't change what happened. It doesn't change the fact that you and a lot of Republicans are on the record during that time talking about the very thing you said never happened and didn't exist and they weren't saying it didn't happen and it didn't exist."
“Trump’s two impeachments can’t be ‘expunged’ any more than his term as president can be,” tweeted Harvard’s Laurence Tribe. “Erasing the past isn’t a thing; it’s a fantasy, like erasing reality or making yesterday disappear. Alternative ‘facts’ aren’t facts at all. It’s not about Congress’s power; it’s about truth.”
Even MAGA-friendly Jonathan Turley agreed. "It is not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you are impeached," Turley wrote in an email to Reuters.
In other words: “Expungement,” is like unringing a bell, or airbrushing out an unperson, as if they never existed. Like this:
Actually, it’s more like this:
But this sort of gaslighting is what Donald Trump wants and, once again, the GOP is going along. His presidential rivals promise to pardon him for his crimes; and the House GOP moves to airbrush out his impeachments. Writes Greg Sargent:
The aim appears to be to allow Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee in next year’s election, to claim that despite the events we all witnessed, he was never impeached at all. That lie can then become part of the fake historical record he sells to his supporters.
Elise Stefanik, however, wants to go even further. The text of her resolution actually endorses some of Trump’s lies about the election itself, as a justification for his actions.
In one clause, she declares that Trump is the first president since Grover Cleveland in 1888 “to have increased his vote from his initial election and seemingly still not won reelection in the subsequent cycle.” [Emphasis added.] She also cites the votes in “bellwether counties” that Trump won.
Via Punchbowl News, some GOPers are refusing to get on board with the madness.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told CNN’s Manu Raju last week that he wouldn’t vote for the resolution. “Not at this point, no,” Bacon said. “It sounds a little bit weird to me.”
“It is what it is, it happened,” Bacon added, meaning the Jan. 13, 2021, House impeachment vote.
Yet this episode neatly encapsulates the House Republican Conference in 2023. It’s a constant tug-of-war between moderates looking to govern and hardline conservatives looking to score political points or settle grievances — especially those involving Trump.
Speaking of gaslighting, does anything about this description strike you as familiar?
There are several common tactics that gaslighters use to manipulate others… These tactics include:
Denial — Claiming that something that happened didn’t happen or that something that didn’t happen did.
Distraction — Changing topics to something unrelated.
Deflection — Blaming the situation on someone other than themselves. There are several different ways they try to deflect, including:
Projection — Denying they behaved negatively and accusing someone else of the behavior they engaged in.
False equivalencies — Excusing their inappropriate behavior by comparing it to a minor mistake that the other person made and acting as though those actions are of the same severity, e.g., “Yes, I did that, but what you did was just as bad (or worse).”
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About that Wannabe Coup
After this weekend’s mutiny in Russia, the world is suddenly seeing Putin in a new light. Meanwhile, America’s wannabe authoritarian goes full martyr, and Chris Christie is making it safe to say Voldemort again. Will Saletan joined guest host Mona Charen on Monday.
How damning is that new tape?
You knew it was coming, because the tape is described in the indictment. But listening to the actual audio of a laughing, confessing, Coke-guzzling, ex-president talking about secret war plans… is really something.
“These are the papers,” Trump continues, according to the audio file.
“This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump continues, before noting that the document remained classified.
“See as president I could have declassified it,” Trump says. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
“Now we have a problem,” his staffer responds.
“Isn’t that interesting,” Trump says.
While that’s the last line included in the indictment, the audio recording obtained by CNN includes several additional lines from the conversation:
Trump: “It’s so cool. I mean, it’s so, look, her and I, and you probably almost didn’t believe me, but now you believe me.”
Writer: “No, I believed you.”
Trump: “It’s incredible, right?”
Writer: “No, they never met a war they didn’t want.”
Trump: “Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in please.”
“Speaking as a Watergate historian,” tweeted Garrett Graff, “there’s nowhere on thousands of hours of Nixon tapes where Nixon makes any comment as clear, as clearly illegal, and as clearly self-aware as this Trump tape.”
Former GOP congressman and newly-minted presidential candidate Will Hurd also weighed in: “Having a Coke and a smile while you willingly show classified information to those who shouldn’t see it, which could put American lives in jeopardy, is the definition of ‘Me First, America Last’.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked attorney George Conway what he thought the new tape means for TFG:
Well, the special counsel already had Trump dead to rights because we knew this tape existed in some form. But to actually hear a former President of the United States committing a felony, probably multiple felonies, on audiotape while laughing about it is something I just — I think it's just stunning,’
… I don't know how you can explain that in front of a jury.’
The WSJ is reporting that the tape was the turning point for prosecutors: “Trump Prosecutors Struggled Over Motives. Then They Heard the Tape.”
What turned the tide was an audio tape and other evidence investigators confirmed around February from meetings Trump held almost two years earlier and a thousand miles from the former president’s Palm Beach, Fla., resort, according to people familiar with the matter.
That crucial evidence, along with notes from a Trump lawyer describing his response to the investigation, helped spur prosecutors to push forward with a criminal case, the people said—an unprecedented step that might have been avoided if Trump had cooperated even late last year, as some of his lawyers had urged him to do.
Trump’s reaction to the tape? As usual, he seems to be taking it well:
And then early this morning he followed up:
COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO THE DERANGED, TRUMP HATING JACK SMITH, HIS FAMILY, AND HIS FRIENDS, THAT AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I COME UNDER THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT, AS AFFIRMED BY THE CLINTON SOCKS CASE, NOT BY THIS PSYCHOS’ FANTASY OF THE NEVER USED BEFORE ESPIONAGE ACT OF 1917. “SMITH” SHOULD BE LOOKING AT CROOKED JOE BIDDEN [SIC] AND ALL OF THE CRIMES THAT HE HAS PERPETRATED ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC, INCLUDING THE MILLIONS & MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HE EXTORTED FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES!
Exit take: New Morning Consult polls explains why you think the world has gone crazy:
Trump takes lead over Biden in general-election matchup: Trump continues to be the favorite for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, with 57% of potential GOP primary voters supporting his candidacy. But for the first time since tracking began in December, Trump also leads Biden by 3 percentage points in a hypothetical general-election matchup, outside the surveys’ margins of error.
Judge Luttig: It’s Not Too Late for the Republican Party
American president to be charged with crimes against the nation that he once led and wishes to lead again. He cynically calculated that his indictment would ensure that a riled-up Republican Party base would nominate him as its standard-bearer in 2024, and the last few weeks have proved that his political calculation was probably right.
The former president’s behavior may have invited charges, but the Republicans’ spineless support for the past two years convinced Mr. Trump of his political immortality, giving him the assurance that he could purloin some of the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets upon leaving the White House — and preposterously insist that they were his to do with as he wished — all without facing political consequences. Indeed, their fawning support since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol has given Mr. Trump every reason to believe that he can ride these charges and any others not just to the Republican nomination, but also to the White House in 2024.
In a word, the Republicans are as responsible as Mr. Trump for this month’s indictment — and will be as responsible for any indictment and prosecution of him for Jan. 6….
1. Mike Pence Still Twisting the Truth for Trump
Will Saletan writes that the former VP can’t help himself from joining other Republicans in badly misrepresenting the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
REPUBLICANS HAVE LARGELY agreed on a unified message about Donald Trump’s indictment for abusing classified documents: The former president, they say, is the victim of a partisan Department of Justice.
This message is false. Trump is being prosecuted because he—unlike other former officials who were found to have such documents—withheld and sought to conceal his documents from the government, even under subpoena. His apologists try to obscure this distinction. They pretend that he’s been targeted not for his conduct but because he’s a Republican.
The most remarkable peddler of this nonsense is Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence. He, too, had classified documents in boxes at his home. But unlike Trump, Pence cooperated with the government and returned the documents. And what did the supposedly partisan DOJ do in Pence’s case? It chose not to prosecute him.
So Pence knows firsthand that the department is making its decisions based on facts, not party. Yet he pretends the opposite.
2. At High School Debates, Watch What You Say
Second part of a remarkable report on the toxic ideology infecting high school debate judging. Via the Free Press:
The NSDA has allowed hundreds of judges with explicit left-wing bias to infiltrate the organization. These judges proudly display their ideological leanings in statements—or “paradigms”—on a public database maintained by the NSDA called Tabroom, where they declare that debaters who argue in favor of capitalism, or Israel, or the police, will lose the rounds they’re judging.
This has fundamentally changed the culture of high school debate—or so scores of students are telling me….
3. Confronting the Horror of Racial Violence in America
Bill Lueders writes: Wesley Lowery’s new book looks at what’s exceptional and what’s not about the resurgence of hate-motivated attacks during the Obama and Trump years.
LOWERY SAYS THE GOAL of his book is “to put human faces on the relentless cycle of violence that has defined American history—to put flesh and bone on our discussion of white supremacist terror.” He does so by taking a deep dive into six episodes of racial violence from the Obama and Trump years—four during the former and two during the latter—including the 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the 2017 white supremacist marches that turned violent in Charlottesville. All involve pulling at threads of racism that can be found woven throughout the nation’s history.