MSNBC Guests: Conservative Media, Partisanship Keep GOP from Impeaching Trump

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Leave to a former National Review editor and former RNC chair to lament their former cohorts aren’t doing the supposed right thing. 

On Thursday’s Hardball, MSNBC political analysts Robert Costa and Michael Steele pinned blame on a devout affinity to President Trump, a “conservative media complex,” and a love of partisanship on the right for why the Republican Party have refused to join Democrats in their push to impeach and remove Trump.

 

 

The segment began with lengthy back-and-forth between Steele and host Chris Matthews in which Steele tried to explain why many Republicans would like to hear from the whistleblower in the now infamous complaint before going further, but Matthews behaved as if Steele weren’t on the pro-impeachment side.

Once Matthews wrapped his brain around the fact that Steele was merely summarizing what he believes Hill Republicans are thinking, Costa interjected with his reasoning why Republicans haven’t joined the left (and the media, but that’s redundant) in wanting to overthrow Trump. 

The Washington Post reporter’s reason? Well, go ahead and blame that pesky conservative media (click “expand”):

COSTA: This isn't 1973, 1974, there's a conservative media complex, a Republican Party that goes beyond just Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, Ben Sasse on Capitol Hill. There’s a whole group on the outside that's coming to the barricades for this President, and that's what the Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking at. 

STEELE: There's no Larry Hogan, Sr. in that building right now who’s going to say to the President of the United States, “Sir —

MATTHEWS: Okay.

COSTA: If they think it’s so bad, where is the challenger behind Bill Weld for 2020?

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you — does this come down to the — 

COSTA: Or Joe Walsh?

MATTHEWS: — question the fight's more important than the facts? 

Matthews then put his finger on one accurate reason why the right has stuck with the President, which was that “they're so angry, so resentful of the democratic, liberal establishment in this country that they see has been running this country for years.”

Steele agreed, but instead of leaving it at that, he took a pot shot at the party he’s supposedly a part of for being too partisan instead of, you know, putting country first (click “expand”):

STEELE: I think you just nailed — nailed it. That — that is the raison d'etre or whatever that nice little

MATTHEWS: Yeah, raison d'etre. 

STEELE: — yeah, that’s that French — that French phrase? Yeah that's that moment right there for them. That's what this fight is about. The partisanship has eclipsed the politics. The partisanship defines everything, and right now this is a fight to create the phalanx around the President, do or die. 

COSTA: But there’s a lot of quiet. When I was roaming around the Senate today, a lot of senators when I wept up to them with the notebook and the recorder they said, “ah, no thanks, I haven't read the full complaint, haven't read the letter.”

STEELE: Right, right. 

MATTHEWS: Toomey said that on Sunday. 

COSTA: He kept saying it.

MATTHEWS: He kept saying I know nothing. He was Sergeant Schultz. I know nothing, right.

COSTA: A lot of these — if you're in a swing state, if you’re up in 2020, Susan Collins —

STEELE: Exactly.

COSTA: — Senator from Maine, she tells — she told me I don't want to comment because I could be a juror in the trial in the Senate. So they're all coming up with remarks that take them away from having to get in the fight. 

While it wasn’t like his unsolicited pep talks over the last few days, Matthews concluded by insisting that Democrats must not wait much longer before they move forward with an impeachment vote before moving to the Senate trial to maximize the moment.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on September 26, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
September 26, 2019
7:48 p.m. Eastern

CONGRESSMAN MIKE TURNER (R-OH): I've read the complaint and I've read the transcript of the conversation with the President and the President of Ukraine. Concerning that conversation I want to say, President, this is not okay. That conversation is not okay, and I think it's disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. That was Republican congressman Mike Turner of Ohio with a somewhat mild condemnation of President Trump's conversation with the President of Ukraine. His critical comment made him a notable exception, however, from his Republican colleagues on the Intel Committee at today's hearing with the acting director of national intelligence. Immediately after the release, by the way, of that explosive whistle-blower complaint President Trump tweeted in all caps, of course, “THE DEMOCRATS ARE TRYING TO DESTROY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND ALL THAT IT STANDS FOR. STICK TOGETHER, PLAY THEIR GAME, AND FIGHT HARD REPUBLICANS. OUR COUNTRY IS AT STAKE!” Well, the President later deleted that tweet, but there were some tiny cracks, however, emerging in the President's GOP firewall. Another Intel committee, Republican retiring Texas congressman Will Hurd tweeted “There is a lot in the whistleblower complaint that is concerning. We need to fully investigate all of the allegations addressed in the letter, and the first step is to talk to the whistleblower.”Yesterday two Republican Senators, Utah’s Mitt Romney and Nebraska's Ben Sasse openly called the complaint by the whistle-blower troubling.....Now, we always learn from myth, that sloganeering that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. But why do they stay in line? 

MICHAEL STEELE: Because we're very good at the line. 

(....)

STEELE: Until you can show that there's been a detrimental breach in that line meaning there's evidence, information, behavior, something that will cause a crack, they're going to hold it. I mean, we’ve seen that.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, we have that. We have the President of the United States —

STEELE: Well, Chris, we don't have that yet. You have — you have two documents that have been put out, and I think to Congressman Hurd's point, 

MATTHEWS: One by the White House.

STEELE: I think — I think that line should have been broken a long time ago. So, let’s be clear about where I’m coming from.

MATTHEWS: But the White House put a document out showing the President of the United States responded to a call —

STEELE: Understood

MATTHEWS: — for defensive weapons, anti-tank missiles 

ROBERT COSTA: Cause all you got are rockets.

MATTHEWS: — with gimme dirt. 

STEELE: Chris, you — I'm trying to give you an explanation why the line holds and what we have so far and I think Congressman Hurd is right, they want to talk to the whistleblower because the whistle-blower is technically or, in reality, the individual could cause that break. The Senate —

MATTHEWS: No, no.

STEELE: — okay.

MATTHEWS: Because the whistle-blower simply told us about a conversation which we got —

STEELE: I’m just saying — I’m just saying —

MATTHEWS: — we got a copy of the conversation —

STEELE: — when that individual is in front of those members, Chris —

MATTHEWS: — but we got the information from the White House.

STEELE: — when that individual — when that individual — is in front of those members, that's the moment of the crack. The Senate — the Senate conversation has been muted today. They came out. They weren't coming out in the same form as a Devin Nunes. 

MATTHEWS: Just a thought here.

STEELE: Just a thought.

MATTHEWS: You get up in the morning and your wife says it's snowing outside, you go outside and it's snowing, it doesn't matter what she said, it's snowing. We now what was in that conversation cause we've got the transcript of the conversation. 

(....)

COSTA: I mean, I was outside the house chamber tonight. I was talking to some of these top allies for President Trump, loyal soldiers like Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

MATTHEWS: Are they as bad as this?

COSTA: They are fully in line with President Trump. 

STEELE: Thank you. 

COSTA: They say he has the political capital. They also say the Democrats are overstepping their bounds, and so that's the argument they're making. The cracks are with the Senate.

(....)

MATTHEWS: You know, I guess I'm having a problem here communing with you, Michael, and maybe, you’re a straight reporter, with you. To me it jumps out at me, high crime when I see a President who has unique authority and power over U.S. foreign military aid, which we use to help our allies so that we're safe ourselves. We know why we give military aid, to help ourselves. We fight a country that's on the front line against the Russians and we say they're invading your country, they’ve grabbed a big part of it already, we're going to stop those tanks from taking the rest of your country and our President says I've got a favor I want from you, though, help me get some dirt on my opponents. That's what he said. That was the condition of getting the — 

STEELE: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: — the support. How's that not impeachable? 

STEELE: I think it is. 

MATTHEWS: Okay, thank you.

STEELE: I’m not disagree — you asked me a specific question about why the members in that building behaved the way they behave, and I'm telling you and as Robert reinforced in his conversation, that’s their thinking. They've got — they’ve got — until you can show something that causes them to move —

COSTA: This isn't 1973 —

STEELE: Right, this isn’t that period.

COSTA: — 1974, there's a conservative media complex, a Republican Party that goes beyond just Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, Ben Sasse on Capitol Hill. There’s a whole group on the outside that's coming to the barricades for this President, and that's what the Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking at. 

STEELE: There's no Larry Hogan, Sr. in that building right now who’s going to say to the President of the United States, “Sir —

MATTHEWS: Okay.

COSTA: If they think it’s so bad, where is the challenger behind Bill Weld for 2020?

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you — does this come down to the — 

COSTA: Or Joe Walsh?

MATTHEWS: — question the fight's more important than the facts? Because I’m asking —

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: — a very serious question that they're so angry, so resentful of the democratic, liberal establishment in this country that they see has been running this country for years, they so resent it, they're willing to back Trump, right or wrong? 

STEELE: I think you just nailed — nailed it. That — that is the raison d'etre or whatever that nice little

MATTHEWS: Yeah, raison d'etre. 

STEELE: — yeah, that’s that French — that French phrase? Yeah that's that moment right there for them. That's what this fight is about. The partisanship has eclipsed the politics. The partisanship defines everything, and right now this is a fight to create the phalanx around the President, do or die. 

COSTA: But there’s a lot of quiet. When I was roaming around the Senate today, a lot of senators when I wept up to them with the notebook and the recorder they said, “ah, no thanks, I haven't read the full complaint, haven't read the letter.”

STEELE: Right, right. 

MATTHEWS: Toomey said that on Sunday. 

COSTA: He kept saying it.

MATTHEWS: He kept saying I know nothing. He was Sergeant Schultz. I know nothing, right.

COSTA: A lot of these — if you're in a swing state, if you’re up in 2020, Susan Collins —

STEELE: Exactly.

COSTA: — Senator from Maine, she tells — she told me I don't want to comment because I could be a juror in the trial in the Senate. So they're all coming up with remarks that take them away from having to get in the fight. 

MATTHEWS: By the way, jumping ahead, do you think the Senate would like to skip the vote? If the House votes to impeach say, by Thanksgiving —

COSTA: Constitutionally, don't they have to have a trial? 

MATTHEWS: — I’m not sure they — there's been talk that they can skip it. 

STEELE: Ah, no. The Constitution — no, the Constitution — they’re going to have to have a trial. They have to have a trial.

MATTHEWS: They're going to have to vote? They don’t want to vote or they do want to vote? 

COSTA: They don't want to vote especially if you're up for re-election in 2020. 

MATTHEWS: Right now your reporting was in the Senate today, my — I'm hearing from people that they do think they have to do in weeks. They can't put it off for months. 

STEELE: I agree. I've heard that, too. I think a lot of folks — because this has been so narrowly focused now by the two documents —

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEELE: — that were released so far and the evidence there, this moment clarifies it for a lot of Democrats, some of the Republicans. I mean, as has been reported, Robert, I think you may have been even commented on this that, you know, privately folks are saying if you could do a blind vote in the Senate where you didn’t have to put your name out there —

MATTHEWS: If you had to vote, if we're going to have a vote to impeach in the house, this building here, we’re in this part of the world, is it more likely it's going to happen in 2019, 2020 or never? 

STEELE: I think it has to happen now, ‘19. 

COSTA: Sooner or later if Speaker Pelosi gets that narrow impeachment. 

STEELE: That’s right.

MATTHEWS: I think so. An article on this one on Ukraine makes the most sense and they'll have it in a couple of weeks. 

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