Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s disastrous press briefing on Thursday was a prime example of how the White House is struggling to explain President Donald Trump’s efforts in Ukraine in a way that isn’t tantamount to a confession. But Trump’s rally a few hours later in Dallas indicated the president isn’t doing a much better job.
Thursday night, Trump didn’t try to defend his efforts to cajole the Ukrainian government to undertake politically beneficial investigations — efforts that have prompted an impeachment inquiry. Instead, he made stuff up about House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), attacked a whistleblower whose core allegations have already been corroborated by the White House, and suggested his handpicked intelligence community inspector general is conspiring against him. None of these talking points can withstand the slightest bit of scrutiny.
Trump’s attacks on Schiff are at odds with reality
For weeks now, Trump has been lying about what happened during a September 26 House Intelligence Committee hearing featuring testimony from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Schiff opened that hearing by paraphrasing “the essence” of what Trump said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the fateful late-July phone call in which Trump used American military aid as leverage to get the Ukrainian government to undertake politicized investigations. Schiff’s approach wasn’t just unnecessary — the White House’s own summary of the call was damning enough — it was also an unfortunate one, as it provided Trump and his defenders with an opportunity to deflect from the substance of the scandal.
Side note: Adam Schiff’s decision to open the hearing with a fictional account of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president was a bad idea and has already been used by two Republicans to criticize him. Here’s video of how Schiff framed things: pic.twitter.com/eURjf6grDL— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 26, 2019
Not only has Trump attacked Schiff over the incident, but he’s gone far further and absurdly characterized his paraphrasing as a criminal act that’s tantamount to treason. And on Thursday in Dallas, unloading on Schiff was one of the main talking points Trump used to frame the entire impeachment proceeding as a fraud.
“[Schiff] makes up my conversation which was perfect; he makes up my conversation,” Trump said. “He sees what I said — it doesn’t play well because it was perfect — so he made up a totally false conversations with the Ukrainian president. And we caught him cold. Everybody knew it anyway.”
“I want to get him before Congress, and I want to see what he has to say,” Trump added. “You know, they say he has immunity. Why do you have immunity for outright