A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
For the past week I’ve been thinking that there’s too much media attention surrounding the House GOP, and not enough attention on the Senate. President Trump’s impeachment in the House seems inevitable at this point. The question is what the Senate will decide to do. I’m clearly far from the only one thinking this way. Fox’s Laura Ingraham led her Tuesday night show by saying “this is McConnell’s moment.”
Ingraham was pressuring the Senate Majority Leader to defend Trump — and she said she hoped he was listening. He needs to stand up to “the Democrats’ political reign of terror,” Ingraham said.
“He needs to show the American people that the GOP stands united behind the man that they elected to lead this country, run our foreign policy, help advance our economy,” she said. “McConnell needs to make sure that every Republican keeps pressure on Pelosi, Schiff and Schumer. His resolution with Lindsey Graham was a very good start.”
Looking ahead to the likely Senate trial, “McConnell must also stop acting like his hands are tied,” Ingraham continued. She suggested that the rules should be updated: “These times require extraordinary measures.” She also said McConnell “can and should push for a blisteringly short impeachment trial, giving Democrats maybe an afternoon to put on their sham case. I think that’s too generous.” Her point: “Republicans in the Senate need to step up or get out.”
The counterargument is obvious: McConnell will do what’s best for the party, not what’s best for Trump. The party, not the man…
There are a thousand ways to say “no comment”
Tuesday’s best headline: “Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary efforts to say nothing at all.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett reported that McConnell avoided giving “substantive answers to direct questions about the allegations made by Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the first current White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry about President Donald Trump’s controversial call with the Ukrainian President… Notably, McConnell’s non-responses came just a day after Trump implored congressional Republicans to spend more energy defending his actions on that call.” Read on…
>> Per CNN’s John King, McConnell has been telling Republicans to “hold your powder. Let’s watch how this plays out in the House. Everybody lay back, and we’ll get there when we get there…”
The sound of silence
Many key GOP senators have decided to remain silent about the Ukraine scandal and the ensuing inquiry. WaPo’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker captured this dynamic in a must-read story on Monday.
They said Republican senators “are lost and adrift… and anxious about the historic reckoning that probably awaits them.” Senators are “dreading having to weigh their conscience against their political calculations.” Readers need more reporting like this…
>> Sarah Ellison on “Reliable Sources” last Sunday: “The only way that you can report on silence is to keep asking the questions, and saying who is willing to answer… In a vacuum, all you can do is just pick up the phone and keep asking…”
“I have never in my life witnessed such resolution and anger,” Sean Hannity said Tuesday night, citing calls to his radio show and comments on social media. “I believe that if the Democrats do this and impeach him, and they can, and he’s not going to get convicted in the Senate — I believe that the people that voted for Trump in 2016 and probably many others are going to be willing to wait in line for a month” to vote for him in 2020…
Why this matters: Trump and millions of people hear this rhetoric on a nightly basis, and it shapes the political debate…
New + outrageous = newsworthy
This week’s Trumpworld attacks against Vindman had me thinking back to what Ezra Klein said on “Reliable Sources” a couple of days ago. “The fundamental insight Donald Trump has always had about the media is that our definition of newsworthiness relies incredibly heavily on the idea of outrageousness,” Klein said. “So it is like ‘new’ plus ‘outrageous’ equals ‘newsworthy,’ not just new… Like maybe plus ‘important,’ but definitely plus outrage equals newsworthy.” He said Trump’s “lynching” claim illustrated this point — the outrageous use of language stirred a “meta-conversation.” Something similar is happening now re: Vindman…
>> Klein’s prediction: “As the impeachment inquiry escalates and the situation for Trump becomes more dangerous, more politically dangerous, he is going to act out in ever more outrageous ways as he attempts to turn the conversation back to him. Because what he gets, and has always gotten, is, it doesn’t matter if the coverage is bad, it just matters if he controls it. Donald Trump would always rather control coverage that is negative towards him — because media being negative towards him is actually his brand, it’s not bad for his brand — than lose control of the coverage, even if it in some ways is more positive.”
>> Klein also predicted that Trumpworld’s moves to “wrench back the narrative could become quite dangerous to the system. I expect that in their reaction to this, you’re going to have more impeachable offenses emerge…”