WASHINGTON—They could at least pretend.
At the moment, at least, the Republicans have the votes to do anything they want in the Senate, including acquit the president*. I know it. You know it. The senators know it. The House managers know it. Chief Justice John Roberts knows it. But since we’ve all gone out of the way to be here anyway, the president*’s lawyer could at least pretend to mount a defense against the actual charges brought by the House of Representatives against El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, instead of what we saw Tuesday as the curtain went up on this extended burlesque. Instead, we got to watch Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone do the Dance of the Lickspittles and create audition tapes for their future jobs at the Fox News Channel.
After Rep. Adam Schiff presented the House case at length, the ass-showing really began in earnest. Neither Sekulow nor Cipollone uttered a syllable in defense of the president*’s actual conduct in the Ukraine affair. Instead, Sekulow started raving at one point about Eric Holder. Cipollone, against all odds, was even worse. He told at least three lies in his first two sentences and then he really went on a spree. (He’s also a big lectern-pounder, a living demonstration of the old lawyer’s saw about what you do when neither the facts nor the law is on your side.) He told two huge whoppers, which would generally be a problem, considering that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was sitting above and behind him.
The first was his assertion that Republican members were kept out of classified briefings in the secure facility during the House investigation. Of course, the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee were as permitted to attend those briefings as their Democratic colleagues were. (Some did. Some didn’t.) Of course, Matt Gaetz and a bunch of yahoos bum-rushed the place at one point, but that’s hardly the same thing. Pat Cipollone told a demonstrable lie to the Senate and to the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who may well be wondering at this point why he ever went to law school—and whether Cipollone ever did.
The second of Cipollone’s major prevarications is one that almost every one of the president*’s defenders has pretended to believe. That includes the president* himself, who won’t shut up about it. During the public hearings of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff committed an egregious act of parody. Schiff was talking about the now-infamous call with the president of Ukraine, for which we yet do not have an actual transcript. This is what Schiff said, based on the memorandum of the call that the White House did release.
What is the president’s response? Well, it reads like classic organized crime shakedown. Shorn of its rambling character, and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates. ‘We’ve been very good to your country. Very, very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But, you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though, and I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it, on this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the Attorney General of the United States, my Attorney General, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You’re going to love him...And, by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you, when you’ve done what I asked.’ “
OK, so Schiff is no Scorsese, but it was clear to everyone in the room with the brains god gave a wombat that he was parodying what the president* might have said on the call. It wasn’t a great parody, but Schiff isn’t a stand-up comic. Ever since, however, the president* and his roving gang of misfit acolytes have been claiming that Schiff “lied” about the phone call. This is like saying Kate McKinnon was “lying” about what Jeff Sessions said. Cipollone brought this threadbare prevarication out for a walk again. Right there, in front of the Senate, the Chief Justice, and the world. They are lying to you, Chief. Be the umpire. Call them out.
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