CNN’s Camerota Lobs Softballs at NYT Columnist After Wacky Item Calling for Trump’s Removal

My colleague Clay Waters wrote Monday morning about a crazy column in Sunday’s New York Times by David Leonhardt that demanded the removal of President Trump due to his supposed violations of the emoluments clause and Russian collusion. But when you’re a liberal and offer wacky proposals (see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her tax rate proposal), the liberal media will treat you seriously and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota did just that with a soft interview on Monday’s New Day.

Camerota brought on Leonhardt with open arms at the 8:27 a.m. Eastern mark, complimenting him for “such an attention-grabbing headline” and offering the first softball: “[S]o what's the answer to your question of what are we waiting for?”

 

 

Leonhardt replied with the first of three rambling answers, repeating what Camerota did in recapping his column (yes, really), which was that people should “remember” that “the goal needs  to be removing him from office and so I think that’s because he presents a danger to the country” even though it shouldn’t be “quickly” or else it’d cause Republicans and Trump to further dig in their heels.

So, you want Trump gone before 2020, but doing so “quickly” would backfire? 2020 is next year, bud, so time’s running out.

Camerota asked about whether Democrats could wait until 2020 and, again, Leonhardt didn’t see a disconnect between urging fellow lefties to not rush Trump’s impeachment and removal from office and a rapidly approaching deadline (click “expand”):

LEONHARDT: No, I think, so, to what end, I think Trump is already at 40 percent approval rating. Republicans just lost the popular vote in the midterms by nine percentage points. There are a lot of Republicans who if his — if his support starts to fall at all, if you see Republicans like Cory Gardner of Colorado or Susan Collins of Maine who are showing signs of breaking with him on the shutdown, if his approval rating starts to go into the 30s as more Mueller findings come out, as the Democrats hold hearings, I don't think he's going to have this kind of unified Republican support because I think Republicans are going to realize they could lose their office the same way so many House Republicans lost their office.

CAMEROTA: But his — but his approval rating has dipped into the 30s and they still stood in solidarity, most of them, with him. 

LEONHARDT: Well, it's dipped into the 30s ever so briefly and only to like 38 or 39. I mean I'm not talking about individual polls, which basically I would encourage people never to pay much attention to. Look at the polling average and his approval rating has really hovered right around 40 percent, but I think he's a very weak President. I mean 40 percent is bad and so, on the substance, I don't think he is fit to be President. I think he's violated his constitutional oath multiple times. I am very worried about what would happen if we had a true national emergency, a war, a financial crisis, a terrorist attack and imagining him trying to lead the nation through that? And so I think it's important to start to think, to what can we do to imagine a scenario where he does not get to the end of his term and I think people who say, well, that will never happen, Republicans will always support him are forgetting just how much Republican support Richard Nixon had into 1973 from voters and from elites. I mean, you can go back and find these great quotes from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who were senior Republicans at the time standing by Nixon and then it all crumbled.

For the record, Barack Obama’s approval rating dipped below 40 percent in 2014, according to Gallup while, for others, CBS placed it at 40 percent in September 2014, and NBC had it at 40 percent in August 014. My colleague Rich Noyes wrote about this bias by omission in an excellent September 8, 2014 Media Reality Check.

Camerota’s final question was, again, incredibly pedestrian (click “expand”):

But so let's just play out your prescription. So you're saying that their — that Democrats should immediately launch investigations. They're planning to do that on various committees. You believe that that will somehow affect public opinion polling, though it has been pretty rock solid, I mean, even though there have been all sorts of investigations done in the media about the things that President Trump is accused of and you think that once those public opinion polls dip enough, then Republicans will come around and then what? You think that before 2020, President Trump could actually be impeached if those things happen? 

Leonhardt further eroded his own column, stating in a clarification that “it’s really hard to game out what's going to happen step by step over the next year or so, so I'm not saying do this and this will follow” even though “[w]hat I'm saying is, is Trump is very weak.”

Running through the laundry list of bad headlines for Trump in the last few months, he concluded (click “expand”):

I don't know what's going to follow. I’m not saying, oh, if that happens, he’ll clearly be gone. I'm saying I think it's a national emergency that we have an unfit President in the office and I think people need to be looking at that and saying, what can we do to maximize the odds that a corrupt President, one who really could do a huge amount of additional damage if our country faces an emergency, will not be President anymore. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed to happen. I'm saying when you're facing an emergency, you basically need to look at the most effective ways to address it and right now I think that these are the most effective ways. I’m cheered to see that I think both Robert Mueller, from a law enforcement perspective, and Nancy Pelosi, from a political perspective, appear to be following precisely this strategy.

Good work, CNN. Hope that was really worth over five and a half minutes of airtime!

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s New Day on January 7, click “expand.”

CNN’s New Day
January 7, 2019
8:27 a.m. Eastern

ALISYN CAMEROTA: This weekend, New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt made the case in a new op-ed titled: “The people versus Donald J. Trump.” He made the case for getting rid of the president. David Leonhardt joins me now. It’s great to have you here. You had such an attention-grabbing headline with this column which was: “Donald Trump is demonstrably unfit for office, what are we waiting for?” And the case that you laid out was that the President has used the presidency for personal enrichment, he’s violated the campaign finance law. You've concluded he's obstructed justice, though Robert Mueller has not concluded that yet, and he has subverted democracy in various ways and so what's the answer to your question of what are we waiting for? 

DAVID LEONHARDT: Well, so I think the key thing here to remember is what’s the goal? I think the goal needs to be removing him from office and so I think that’s because he presents a danger to the country. I think that, if you look at the Founders, they believed we should occasionally remove a president from office. So, if that’s the goal, does impeaching him quickly get us closer to that goal? And I think the answer is no. I think it gets us further from that goal. If house Democrats impeached him, Republicans would — would — would come I think they would focus attention on House Democrats. So, to me, Democrats should hold hearings and focus on Trump's behavior and try to slowly peel away some of Trump's Republican support and not think that's impossible. Nixon kept Republican support for a very long time until he lost it and I really think it's possible that could happen in this case. 

CAMEROTA: But to what end? So, if they do that, to what end? Then they wait it out until 2020? 

LEONHARDT: No, I think, so, to what end, I think Trump is already at 40 percent approval rating. Republicans just lost the popular vote in the midterms by nine percentage points. There are a lot of Republicans who if his — if his support starts to fall at all, if you see Republicans like Cory Gardner of Colorado or Susan Collins of Maine who are showing signs of breaking with him on the shutdown, if his approval rating starts to go into the 30s as more Mueller findings come out, as the Democrats hold hearings, I don't think he's going to have this kind of unified Republican support because I think Republicans are going to realize they could lose their office the same way so many House Republicans lost their office.

CAMEROTA: But his — but his approval rating has dipped into the 30s and they still stood in solidarity, most of them, with him. 

LEONHARDT: Well, it's dipped into the 30s ever so briefly and only to like 38 or 39. I mean I'm not talking about individual polls, which basically I would encourage people never to pay much attention to. Look at the polling average and his approval rating has really hovered right around 40 percent, but I think he's a very weak President. I mean 40 percent is bad and so, on the substance, I don't think he is fit to be President. I think he's violated his constitutional oath multiple times. I am very worried about what would happen if we had a true national emergency, a war, a financial crisis, a terrorist attack and imagining him trying to lead the nation through that? And so I think it's important to start to think, to what can we do to imagine a scenario where he does not get to the end of his term and I think people who say, well, that will never happen, Republicans will always support him are forgetting just how much Republican support Richard Nixon had into 1973 from voters and from elites. I mean, you can go back and find these great quotes from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who were senior Republicans at the time standing by Nixon and then it all crumbled. 

CAMEROTA: But so let's just play out your prescription. So you're saying that their — that Democrats should immediately launch investigations. They're planning to do that on various committees.

LEONHARDT: Yes.

CAMEROTA: You believe that that will somehow affect public opinion polling, though it has been pretty rock solid, I mean, even though there have been all sorts of investigations done in the media about the things that President Trump is accused of and you think that once those public opinion polls dip enough, then Republicans will come around and then what? You think that before 2020, President Trump could actually be impeached if those things happen? 

LEONHARDT: I think it’s really hard to game out what's going to happen step by step over the next year or so, so I'm not saying do this and this will follow. What I'm saying is, is Trump is very weak. He just really lost the midterms quite badly and a presidential electorate is more favorable toward Democrats than a midterm electorate. You really do see signs of Republicans becoming increasingly uncomfortable with him. Jim Mattis resigned. Mitt Romney just entered the Senate by blasting the President. As I mentioned, Cory Gardner and Susan Collins are uncomfortable about this shutdown and so there really are signs that Trump is weaker than I think a lot of people realize and if you end up having a year where Robert Mueller continues doing what he’s doing, which is calmly laying out the facts here, and you have the Democrats in Congress holding hearings, trying to get Trump’s tax returns, looking into what really happened in Russia, I don't know what's going to follow. I’m not saying, oh, if that happens, he’ll clearly be gone. I'm saying I think it's a national emergency that we have an unfit President in the office and I think people need to be looking at that and saying, what can we do to maximize the odds that a corrupt President, one who really could do a huge amount of additional damage if our country faces an emergency, will not be President anymore. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed to happen. I'm saying when you're facing an emergency, you basically need to look at the most effective ways to address it and right now I think that these are the most effective ways. I’m cheered to see that I think both Robert Mueller, from a law enforcement perspective, and Nancy Pelosi, from a political perspective, appear to be following precisely this strategy. 

CAMEROTA: David Leonhardt, thank you for sharing your opinion with us here on New Day.

LEONHARDT: Thanks for having me.


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