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GOP Senators in full court media press to defend Trump on eve of second impeachment trial

GOP Senators in full court media press to defend Trump on eve of second impeachment trial

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With the Senate impeachment trial of the repudiated former president Donald Trump set to begin this week, Republican Senators mounted a full-court press on SuperBowl Sunday, perhaps mistaking which sport reigned supreme on this day, to defend their party’s stigmatized leader and distract from his accountability for his transgressions with spurious constitutional arguments mixed with a denial of reality.

Divide and conquer seemed to be the operating principle of Trump’s defense today as each major news network hosted a different GOP luminary to peddle their excuses as to why they thought the conviction of the ex-commander-in-chief was not a good idea.

While Fox News Sunday Futures featured Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), the subject of an earlier article about his accusations that it was actually House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who was responsible for the January 6th attack on the Capitol, other Republican Senators who will soon be sitting as jurors for the ex-president all took their places on the other networks’ Sunday morning political talk shows to bleat their own lies about the partisan battle ahead.

On CBS‘s Face The Nation, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) backtracked from the message of accountability he delivered in the immediate aftermath of the deadly Capitol riots, by declaring the attempt to convict the former White House occupant as unconstitutional now that Trump is no longer president.

“…if you believe you committed a crime, he can be prosecuted like any other citizen. Impeachment is a political process. We’ve never impeached a president once they’re out of office. I think this is a very bad idea. Forty-five plus Republicans are going to vote early on that it’s unconstitutional. It’s not a question of how the trial ends. It’s a question of when it ends. Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise. And the only question is, will they call witnesses? How long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt. That doesn’t mean what happened on January the 6th was okay. It means this impeachment, in the eyes of most Republicans, is an unconstitutional exercise,” Senator Graham told Face The Nation host Margaret Brennan.

“The bottom line is the impeachment articles, I think, are unconstitutional because the president is in Florida,” Graham continued. “He’s not in office. Impeachment for a president requires the chief justice to preside over the trial. He’s not at the trial because President Trump is not the president. So this is not process. The Constitution, I think, is being flagrantly violated because, when it comes to Trump, there seems to be no end to all of this. So, the trial is going to result in an acquittal,” the South Carolina senator confidently predicted.

Meanwhile, over at Fox News Sunday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was peddling a message to host Chris Wallace so similar to Senator Graham’s that it’s difficult to believe that there wasn’t a carefully coordinated political messaging effort being implemented.

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Chris Wallace was unsparing in his questioning of the libertarian-minded Trump defender.

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“Senator, you talk about other people who have said things, but you know, here there had been weeks of misrepresentations about the election,” Wallace began. “Then he called people to come to Washington. Then he talks about fighting like hell. People in the crowd are talking about going to the Capitol and then they demand to find Speaker Pelosi and to hang Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States. Is that not incitement for insurrection?” he queried.

In addition to discounting the entire impeachment effort as unconstitutional due to Trump no longer being in office, Paul dismissed it as a politically-motivated witchhunt that infringed on Trump’s free speech rights and falsely suggested that Democrats were equally guilty of incitement to violence.

“I think you’re going to see all of this and people are going to have to judge for themselves,” Paul insisted. “Are we going to impeach and potentially criminally prosecute people for political speech when they say ‘get up and fight for your country, let your voices be heard?’ Has nobody in this country heard of figure of speech?”

“You could argue his position was wrong and it was misguided,” the Kentucky lawmaker added. “I accept all of that, but for going to criminalize his speech, you have to do it with the same standard. You can’t just criminalize Republican speech and ignore all the Democrats who have incited violence.”

Over at NBC‘s Meet The Press, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was repeating the party line to host Chuck Todd while trying to convince him that he could still objectively vote on the issue of Trump’s guilt of the impeachment charges lodged against him despite having already voted that the entire impeachment effort was unconstitutional.

Things weren’t much better over at ABC, where This Week host George Stephanopoulos allowed Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) to continue to defend trump despite the Mississippi Senator’s previous repetition of Trump’s “big lie” that his massive loss was due to election fraud rather than a repudiation of his failed presidency and his disastrous response to the COVID19 pandemic.

Matt Negrin, the new host of MSNBC‘s Hardball, saw the GOP efforts to sway public opinion as a failure on the part of the major television news organizations to properly present the actual truth in context.

Negrin’s analysis is spot-on.

It seems like the only solution to the proliferation of phony political claims on television is a return to the “fairness doctrine” regulations mandating the networks provide equal time to opposing opinions on controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced.

These are the rules that broadcast television operated under until they were repealed during the Reagan era and the elimination of which has led to our current highly polarized political environment.

Until we return to a more balanced media landscape, Republican politicians can continue to go on Sunday morning news programs and peddle lies with impunity, barely challenged by their hosts and allowing vicious distortions and lies to spread in an unmitigated manner.

In the meantime, the efforts of GOP senators to whitewash their anticipated acquittal of an ex-president from any accountability for his seditious actions need to be met with a furious campaign to urge them to save our democracy by punishing Donald Trump for his unconstitutional behavior.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.  

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