The Pathetic Sham That Is Trump’s Defense

Have the John Bolton revelations changed the trajectory of the impeachment trial? Could be.

Dahlia Lithwick has a great summation of the Republicans’ defense strategy:

The Republican strategy for getting President Donald Trump off the hook in the Senate’s impeachment trial has largely been rooted in the denial of the existence of a little something we, in the reality-based community, call time. The Republicans would like to pretend that the past doesn’t exist, and also that the future won’t exist, because doing so allows them to confine the mountains of damning evidence against the president to a minimalist public display that consists of in-the-moment rantings about “no quid pro quo” and Adam Schiff and House Democrats’ impeachment strategy. Senate Republicans are also hyperfocusing on single pieces of evidence, like the “perfect phone call,” while blurring out every other witness or piece of evidence as irrelevant or untrustworthy. And as Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers highlighted in the preview of opening arguments on Saturday, the name of the game in the coming days will be to cherry-pick a handful of data points in their client’s defense case, and ignore mountains of corroborating testimonial evidence, leaked emails, and ongoing media reports, all of which establish a clear timeline of the Ukraine scandal. As soon as that defense is phoned in, Republicans could vote quickly to decline to call witnesses and hear testimony, and the impeachment trial would end in acquittal. Then time can start up again. Everything is too early and too late because only this moment matters.

The problem is that the past keeps crashing into the present in ways that drag the future into it. And if John Bolton had planned to hurt Donald Trump — I assume he did, although it’s possible the manuscript was leaked without Bolton’s permission — the timing of the release couldn’t have been better.

The defense soldiers on. I don’t have the stomach to watch it myself, but I’m following a liveblog of the Trump lawyer defense on TPM. I understand that Ken Starr is saying “impeachment is hell” and too terrible a thing to ever do, and he should know.  And he “urged President Trump to use his executive privilege to prevent the release of documents.”

“Don’t release the documents, Mr. President. If you do, you’re injuring the presidency. Go to court,” Starr said. “We’ve heard concerns about the length of time that the litigation might take. Those of us who have litigated know that sometimes litigation does take longer than we would like. Justice delayed is justice denied. We would all agree with that.”

Got that? He’s urging Trump to continue to obstruct justice so that he doesn’t have to face justice. See also Josh Marshall, The Executive Privilege Claims on Bolton Are Totally Fake. In brief, Marshall says “executive privilege” can be used to stop someone from being forced to testify, but it can’t block testimony that someone wants to give. Second, any subpoenas coming from the Senate — which the Constitution says has the sole power to try impeachments — and with the Chief Justice presiding would not be reviewed by any court, period.

Greg Sargent writes that “Bolton’s lawyer says he provided the manuscript to the White House on Dec. 30, 2019, for classification review — nearly a month ago.” And the New York Times is reporting that the White House apparently didn’t alert Senate Republicans about this.

Republicans are angrily pressing the White House in private about the revelations from the manuscript, saying they were blindsided by the former adviser’s account — especially because the administration has had a copy of it since Dec. 30. Many Republicans have adopted the arguments offered by Mr. Trump’s defense team, but Mr. Bolton’s assertions directly contradict them.

As Greg Sargent says, there is no question that Trump’s lawyers have read Bolton’s manuscript and knew all along that he was about to go public with testimony that directly contradicts Trump’s defense. They were playing Senate Republicans for fools.

Are the Senators pissed? Well, Miz Lindsey canceled a press conference scheduled for today. We aren’t told why.

Bolton’s book is scheduled to be released on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

19 thoughts on “The Pathetic Sham That Is Trump’s Defense

  1. I can only watch the Republican "defense" in small doses; 10 or 15 minutes at a time. It's incredibly goofy. I'm no lawyer, but it doesn't sound anything like a legal defense, or at least one that could make sense to anyone not already in the tank for Trump. Impeachment is a political process we're told, but can an exclusively political defense really work? Even when there's video of some of the lawyers directly contradicting themselves in the past?

    Republicans have been living in a universe of their own for so long they apparently don't have a clue about how to behave in the real world. If they won't allow witnesses and just acquit, it will look like a coverup to everyone except the Trumpateers. If they do allow witnesses it's going to be hard to come up with an excuse not to remove King Donald that will be believed by anyone but the same crowd.

    • I can only watch the Republican "defense" in small doses; 10 or 15 minutes at a time. 

       winston.. I experience the same phenomenon except my tolerance levels are much lower. After 5 minutes I feel like my head is going to explode from ingesting too much stupid.

      • I made it through Robert Ray's whole amazing rant, Swami. His logic, subjects and contexts hopped around like a scared jackrabbits on LSD. He gave new meaning to the saying, "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit."

  2. Looks like we won't have to wait for Trump to deliver the State of the Union address. I think the Senate is going to give us a more reliable version of what the state of our union is once they take up a vote on calling witnesses.

    Miz Lindsey scares me.. Even though he's a butt sucking dweeb/eunuch who is talking out his ass. The fact that his mind is so shut and impenetrable just creates a sense of terror in me. It's like concentrated Trumpism personified.. incarnate? Scary shit that can rattle your confidence.

    "If you want to impeach Donald Trump, you've come to the wrong town"

    • Lindsey is instructive: he shows you how far down humans can go. This is why mobs and movements are so dangerous. Humanity is populated with legions of dolts, followers, and it's important to see this.

  3. I can only watch this sham "trial" a few minutes at a time, too!

    As tRUMP's defense attorney's each stood-up to talk, they didn't offer any factual evidence to exonerate him.  Instead, they just went over the same bullshit talking-points, over and over again, one lawyer after the other.  It was like a strip of paper twisted unto itself into a Mo`bius Strip – the same non-facts folding over themselves seemingly into infinity (if you could watch this charade that long).

    I knew it was going to be a farce when Ken Starr opened the circus with one of the greatest examples of chutzpah anyone had ever seen.  He, Starr, had the stones to talk about impeachment being divisive!

    Starr had no shame.  But then, no Republicans do.

    Let's see what happens from now on, if Bolton is, indeed, allowed to testify.

    Hopefully, more witnesses than just the "Great Mustache of Doom, Despair, and Death!"


  4. I just wonder what kind of game John Bolton is playing. He's the consummate insider, and despite being a right wing nutjob, he's not crazy enough to follow Trump over the cliff, which I'm sure he sees is coming. I think he latch on to Trump initially to pursue his own aims (war in the Middle East), but eventually had to leave. He may turn out to rescue the Republic from Trump, getting him out of the way, so he can slip back into power.

  5. Impeachment is hell?  Really? Reminds me of the engraving they used to have on the zippo lighters they sold in the BX in Vietnam.

    If I had a farm in Vietnam and a home in hell, I'd sell my farm and go home.


    Trump only has two things he has to worry about….

    Whether he's sick or whether he's well.

    If he's gets well, he's got nothing to worry about.

    If he gets sick he's only got two things to worry about.

    Whether he lives or whether he dies.

    If he lives he's got nothing to worry about. 

    If he dies he's only got two things to worry about.

    Whether he goes to Heaven or goes to Hell.

    If he goes to Heaven he's got nothing to worry about.

     If he goes to Hell he'll be so busy greeting all his friends he won't have time to worry

  6. Funny

    The Republican senators are mad because the Whitehouse has had the bolton book since December 30 and didn't tell them. Wonder who is leaking the book? The vice president's office?

    Trump making deals with jinping and erdogan and is a danger to national security. My my.

  7. Lady justice is sculpted with a balance, a set of scales.  Trump's lawyers must attempt to fill the other side of the scale with something.  So far it seems to only be the illusion of something.  In a way it is an insanity defense, as it in no was contesting that DJT was not involved in a scheme to back a Putin cover story and plant dirt on Biden.  In the process he was thwarting aid passed by congress aimed at helping  Ukraine in a fight against Russian aggression.  If he had vetoed the bill for aid,  he would have showed his Russian bias too much.  

    Without the whistle-blower, the aid could have past a time limit and have been tied up indefinitely by regulation.  Putin, through DJT, could have stopped aid to Ukraine and defied the congress and the will of the citizens of the United States.  The Senate knows this as does John Bolton.  DJT knew this too but he could have his cake and eat it too.  And it was a great cake, the best cake ever.  It was a cake he and Putin could savor as Ukraine got eaten up by Russia.  DJT needs a chip or two to assure the Russian cyber machine helps in his re-election.  Nixon just had the plumbers.  DJT has social media infiltrated with imaginary people controlled in Russia.  He needs Putin and Putin needs him.  

    A good defense of DJT needs to debunk this theory.  This is only a theory, but it is a theory that is consistent with many facts of the case.  It is a theory that is much more believable than the one Russia put out about Ukraine being the source of the election interference in '16. Remember only a month ago a Senator was spouting THAT theory Sunday morning talk.  At least now the more accepted truth appears to be that theory is considered debunked.  DJT's motives are on trial here.  We have solid evidence that he used appropriated funds to lever a foreign leader to act politically in his favor with an underhanded motive.  We must be left to speculate if that was the only underhanded motive he had.  He may have had many more Quid pro quos dancing at the Tit for Tat in Palm Beach.  Where is the evidence he was not also working other deals in Russia's favor?  If he wants exoneration he is going to need a lot of debunking on that congressional obstruction theory.  If that theory fits, you must not aquit.

  8. Trump says that Bolton is a liar. That's not a good sign. It kinda sets the stage for a judgment by the Senate on a very small focal point as to whether Trump is guilty nor not. And aside from that, the fact that Trump is calling anybody a liar kinda validates the fact that they're telling the truth. Just in the past 3 years Trump has already stacked up something like 16,000 lies to his credit. I think Satan is the only one who has a better record of telling lies than Trump. And that's only because Satan has something like a 6,000 year jump on Trump.

  9. It's disappointing that more people didn't appreciate Robert Ray's surrealistic lawyer performance art. There doesn't seem to be any mention of the wide-ranging fast talking, barely connected name dropping or baseball reference. The only big takeaway is he stepped on Trump's claim to a "perfect" phone call:


    • I appreciated it. With most of Trump's defense teams arguments I'm able to identify and knock down their bullshit before the words they utter have departed their lips. In Ray's case, much to his credit, I had at least a 10 second delay in processing his nonsense. Not that he delivered some profound argument that required some intense thought to fully comprehend it. It was more in his grammatical presentation that caused my processing delay. I found myself asking, did I hear him right? It was like I faltered in a game of playing ping pong with facts.

      There is nobody on Trump's defense team who even slightly impressed me. I realize they don't have much to work with, but it seems to me that with all their hype and billing they could have or should have done a better job of sowing doubt. Although I was impressed with how nicely the defense team was outfitted. It was quite kind of the Trump donors or the GOP to send them out to battle dressed for the occasion.

      Dershowitz looked somewhat distracted like he was longing for his halcyon days on Pedophile Island.

      • In comparison the two main attractions flopped. Ken Starr's absurd hypocrisy and Dershowitz's already debunked theories were just boring.

        The administration seems to believe the Fox News crowd alone can fix it. We'll see how well they stand up to Bolton and Kelly.

  10. Well, Ken Starr has informed us that the real problem, at its heart, is that we're just having too many impeachments.  The last one, that Clinton one, that was about the right amount of time between impeachments.  So this one is just too soon; about 110 years too soon.  Otherwise, he'd feel different, I'm sure.

  11. Since they want Hunter Biden to testify, (and he has nothing to do with it), why don't we get bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky to give ken starr and alan dershowitz a hard time. If ypu want spectacle.

  12. So much disharmony and rancor.  Demonic forces are reported to be working against Trump by Paula White, his alleged spiritual advisor.  Trump's rhetoric is suggesting John Bolton as the demon of the day or demon du jour.  It is reported the right wing social media is piking his head of late, Trump has him as starting world war 6, but who is  counting?  I could have missed a couple. .  Rudy the hand grenade is calling Bolton an atomic bomb, so rhetoric is escalating wildly.  Who will be the first to achieve Death Star status?  Oh and that little side war with Pompeo and NPR just keeps getting bigger.  Maybe things will calm down a little this afternoon.

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