CNN Airs Hatefest on ‘Ineffective,’ ‘Offensive’ Republicans Criticizing Vindman

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In between the two impeachment hearings on Tuesday, the CNN panelists almost universally (with the exception of Scott Jennings) tore into Republicans as offering “ineffective,” “offensive,” and “unconvincing” arguments amounting to a “cherry picking...side show” that dared to criticize Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

And, to further beclown itself as network, CNN briefly turned into a group therapy session for former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former White House counsel John Dean (both CNN contributors).

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin led off by fretting that “[w]hen you strip away everything, what we have learned over the past month is one thing, which is for the first time in American history, an American President has used taxpayer dollars to persuade, bribe, extort another president for information that will help him get reelected.”

In other words, Toobin was parroting the left’s talking points, an evolution we wrote about a few hours earlier. 

 

 

Chief political correspondent Dana Bash boasted that instead of questioning process or what transpired via Ukrainian policy, Republicans have “question[ed] the credibility of the witness, question the story, raise conspiracy theories that have been debunked by the intelligence community.”

The Lead host Jake Tapper then raised what would become a monumental gripe by CNN, which was that the White House Twitter account would dare to tweet its side of the story (click “expand”):

JAKE TAPPER: But the White House official account did tweet something, if we could put that tweet up. It’s the White House official account, paid by your tax dollars, if you’re an American watching right now saying: “Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he concerns about Vindman's judgement. Now, that is factually accurate. Tim Morrison, who is no longer on the National Security Council, did say that he had concerns about whether or not Vindman had the right policy-making chops for the job, but it is remarkable to see taxpayer dollars being used to attack a current National Security Council official.

JOHN KING: Yes, first you had the President do it. He faced a lot of blowback from Republicans, saying please don’t do that, please don’t attack these witnesses, we’re trying to do this on a different track. Now you have the taxpayer accounts, as you mentioned, doing it here, but it's part of the Republican strategy.

Inside Politics host John King opined that the Republican questioning of Vindman’s credibility was “smart politically,” but “they're cherry picking the information” and asking “questions about judgment, about loyalty, about maybe political motivations” that amount to “all a side show.”

Liberal legal analyst Laura Coates expressed anger that the GOP engaged in “unpersuasive and ineffective” questioning with “selective quot[ing]” and “offensive” behavior by criticizing like Vindman to the point that he asked to be addressed as lieutenant colonel and thus take issue with a military man.

It was then that Tapper threw a pity party for McCabe and Dean, illustrating to viewers how the Jeffrey Zucker-led network is chiefly concerned with stroking egos of the Resistance (click “expand”):

TAPPER: Andy McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI, you know a little about mean tweets from President Trump and the White House. [PANEL LAUGHS]

MCCABE: Just a little.

TAPPER: Just so, I want — and without going through your entire history, we heard Ambassador Yovanovitch last week say in realtime that she found President Trump's tweet intimidating. Republicans have said the mean tweets cannot be intimidating, it’s just mean tweets. Who cares. Having been on the end of it — having been on the end of a negative campaign of Mr. Trump, coming from the White House, what is it like? Is it intimidating and — and what do you say to people who say, it’s just a negative tweet. Who cares? 

MCCABE: Well, first of all, nobody says that to you because that's not what it is. It's actually horrifying and I know that from particularly my time still in government, so while I was serving as deputy director and — and acting director, to be receiving those sorts of attacks from the President that you serve while you're in a government position, and therefore, not in any position to ever respond or reply or defend yourself in public, it is both horrifying to be turned upon by like that by our chief executive of the nation, and also just oddly — you just feel so defenseless because there’s absolutely nothing you can do to respond to it, to respond in a way with the sort of amplification and clarity that the President has when he speaks about anything. It’s absolutely horrifying, it's chilling to your family. 

(....) 

DEAN: If I could just flip note what Andrew said about being attacked, having been attacked, he knows, you know, I knew the basic truth of what had happened and all these efforts to stir up and confuse it. You get a certain comfort in knowing you've told the truth, and attacks just don't affect that. I happened to have been in the witness protection program, so I had extra help in protecting myself, but what's happened this morning to me is not surprising. There was a lot of speechifying. The Republicans found they had really no questions very, very quickly and then just started posturing, started attacking the process and that just shows the weakness of their position overall. The Democrats obviously refuted some of that. So big picture, nothing has changed. We’re just getting more confirmation, the public’s getting educated, they’re putting faces on these people and learning what indeed — how unprecedented that — that — that a President would use his office in this manner to get political advantage over his potential opponent. 

Before going to break, Toobin chimed in by mocking Fox News:

Far be it for me to predict what viewers of Fox News will think [PANEL LAUGHS], but can we talk about what a crazy position Stewart was taking there? This President of Ukraine has people dying from lack of military equipment. He has people dying every day because they don't have military equipment. Donald Trump holds in his hand the potential to save the lives of Ukrainians.

Huh. It’s tough to recall the press showing that same desperation when the Obama administration did nothing but offer laughably pathetic scoldings of Russia when their armed forces rolled into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. 

Later and after Tapper again solicited McCabe’s partisan expertise, Bash ripped Republicans for daring to attack Vindman. Why? Well, it’s because he was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq (click “expand”):

BASH: It bears repeating that a Republican White House, any White House, okay, let’s just say that, but especially a Republican White House uses a taxpayer-funded Twitter account to attack a man in uniform who has shrapnel in his body after getting injured by a roadside bomb while serving this country in a war zone is — is just mind blowing. I mean, again, this is one of those things, where it’s like, okay, this is what the Trump White House does. This is what the President sanctions. It's unbelievable....I'm saying it's something that bears noting that is remarkable that the entire Republican Party, except for those Never Trumpers, to go back to that conversation, has moved towards saying, this is okay.

(....)

COATES: Well, not only okay, it's actually not persuasive at all. We’re talking about them fact witnesses. I mean, that’s what they are. Fact witness. 

Huh. Wonder what Bash would tell past versions of herself when she said the late John McCain had “heartless” policies and then-Congressman Scott Rigell wasn’t “fighting a kamikaze mission” on ObamaCare. On the note of civility, there was also the time she laughed at Scott Brown’s daughters being called “prostitutes.” 

Hilariously, Toobin stated in the final minutes of the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour that it’s “legitimate” and “perfectly fair for Republicans to challenge [Vindman’s] credibility” and sees nothing “wrong with that” because “he’s an important” and “incriminating witness” even though, in his mind, they haven’t “succeeded.”

Oh really? Nice of Toobin to just footnote that.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s impeachment coverage on November 19, click “expand.”

CNN Impeachment Hearings
November 19, 2019
1:42 p.m. Eastern

JEFFREY TOOBIN: When you strip away everything, what we have learned over the past month is one thing, which is for the first time in American history, an American President has used taxpayer dollars to persuade, bribe, extort another president for information that will help him get reelected. That was the initial accusation and that's what's been proven over and over again with all these witnesses. 

JAKE TAPPER: Dana Bash? 

DANA BASH; Absolutely and what you haven't heard is any Republican on that dais say anything other than that. No Republican has tried, even attempted to poke a hole in that fundamental question, why we are all here, why these hearings are taking place. What Republicans did instead was question the credibility of the witness, question the story, raise conspiracy theories that have been debunked by the intelligence community —

TAPPER: Whether or not Russia or Ukraine interfered in the election.

BASH: — yeah and by the Trump Justice Department which we'll get to in a second, but just keeping it broad, the fact that Republicans didn't even try to go there on the substance of the allegation and what the picture of these witnesses, just like the ones last week painted, is very, very telling. It — it goes to the notion of, okay, he did it, and a lot of these Republicans have said in other forums, it wasn't the right thing to do but it's not impeachable and the process is bad. 

TAPPER: John King, during the hearing, President Trump didn't tweet at Lieutenant Colonel Vindman or Jennifer Williams as he has before about both of them. But the White House official account did tweet something, if we could put that tweet up. It’s the White House official account, paid by your tax dollars, if you’re an American watching right now saying: “Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he concerns about Vindman's judgement. Now, that is factually accurate. Tim Morrison, who is no longer on the National Security Council, did say that he had concerns about whether or not Vindman had the right policy-making chops for the job, but it is remarkable to see taxpayer dollars being used to attack a current National Security Council official.

JOHN KING: Yes, first you had the President do it. He faced a lot of blowback from Republicans, saying please don’t do that, please don’t attack these witnesses, we’re trying to do this on a different track. Now you have the taxpayer accounts, as you mentioned, doing it here, but it's part of the Republican strategy. Number one, and you saw some of this in the hearing as well. Mr. Morrison did say that. Now, if you read the full transcript of Mr. Morrison, he said something damaging about the President. He, too, went to the National Security Council lawyer and reported his concerns about the call, so the Republicans and this is smart politically, it would be smart in a trial for a lawyer, they're cherry picking the information that they believe helps them. They're not challenging the facts. I think that this is the most important part of it here.

BASH; Right.

KING: We've now had five witnesses in public impeachment hearings and the Republicans are not challenging the facts. The facts are being built that everyone involved, whether they're in Ukraine or the State Department or today inside the West Wing of the White House thought this was outside the rails, thought it was wrong, thought it was improper, thought it was possibly illegal when you got to the question of putting the hold on the money. The Republicans aren't challenging that. What they're trying to do is hold the Republicans in line about questions about judgment, about loyalty, about maybe political motivations or were you leaking. It's all a side show, but it's an important side show politically to keep Republicans from breaking. 

TAPPER: Laura Coates, your take on this time not the President but the White House itself attacking a witness — or that's my interpretation — I should say criticizing, publicly airing critical testimony against one witness while that witness was testifying? 

LAURA COATES: Well, what I really have a problem with is this idea in isolation not providing the full context of the statement. When you do that and you use selective quotes, you mislead the public and the job of the White House is not to do just that. It’s supposed to guide the public, to lead them in a genuine fashion. That didn’t happen with that selective quote. The real issue for me is let's compare last week to now. Last week it was all about, well, it was inappropriate but not outlandish. That was a word you didn’t use, right? You didn’t use the word outlandish. Now it's, you described an abuse of power, you described a quid pro quo, but you didn't say the words bribery and extortion, therefore, it's not really a problem. That's the only leg they have to stand on. That combined with I think the really offensive one here to me was the idea of, who are you to tell me this information, Vindman? They questioned why he had the audacity to want his name to be referred to him as lieutenant colonel as oposed to mister? Who do you think you are? With the audacity to wear your actually uniform in this professional courtroom — in this congressional hearing room, who do you think you are? And here you are, taking outside of — he’s still —

TAPPER: You see Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother who also works in the White House there walking through the halls. I'm sorry. 

COATES: And you have both of them walking in the halls in these positions of real power, but he refused repeatedly to overstate his position. He refused to say that he was somebody who was in charge of policy. Nobody questioned that he was in charge of policy, that the President of the United States had to prerogative to set foreign policy as the nation’s top, real diplomat, but they attacked because they had nothing else there. And it was the audacity argument, the semantics, I think, is the most unpersuasive and ineffective and one which tells you, as Dana was talking about, if you do not have anything to report to the actual substance, you’ve got to essentially fire shots at the  messenger and take the position of, well, it may be important for the world to tell us, but you were the wrong person to tell us. If that’s the case, Jake, who should it have been? 

TAPPER: Andy McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI, you know a little about mean tweets from President Trump and the White House. [PANEL LAUGHS]

ANDREW MCCABE: Just a little.

TAPPER: Just so, I want — and without going through your entire history, we heard Ambassador Yovanovitch last week say in realtime that she found President Trump's tweet intimidating. Republicans have said the mean tweets cannot be intimidating, it’s just mean tweets. Who cares. Having been on the end of it — having been on the end of a negative campaign of Mr. Trump, coming from the White House, what is it like? Is it intimidating and — and what do you say to people who say, it’s just a negative tweet. Who cares? 

MCCABE: Well, first of all, nobody says that to you because that's not what it is. It's actually horrifying and I know that from particularly my time still in government, so while I was serving as deputy director and — and acting director, to be receiving those sorts of attacks from the President that you serve while you're in a government position, and therefore, not in any position to ever respond or reply or defend yourself in public, it is both horrifying to be turned upon by like that by our chief executive of the nation, and also just oddly — you just feel so defenseless because there’s absolutely nothing you can do to respond to it, to respond in a way with the sort of amplification and clarity that the President has when he speaks about anything. It’s absolutely horrifying, it's chilling to your family. 

TAPPER: We heard Lieutenant Colonel Vindman talk about how it's not just about the attacks of the President. It’s other things that then sets off.

MCCABE: That’s exactly right, so it sets off —  unleashes a whole torrent of the President's supporters, you know, people who follow him closely, voters and folks like that, but even worse so, people on the Hill. Other folks, elected representatives and positions of authority who pick up these false narratives and then begin to repeat the lies that the President says about you. It’s just — I can't even adequately describe it, and I know exactly how Ambassador Yovanovitch feels. 

TAPPER: So stepping back from that one tweet from the White House, John Dean, give us your take on this first part of today’s impeachment hearings and what you think was effective, what wasn't effective, what points were made. 

JOHN DEAN: If I could just flip note what Andrew said about being attacked, having been attacked, he knows, you know, I knew the basic truth of what had happened and all these efforts to stir up and confuse it. You get a certain comfort in knowing you've told the truth, and attacks just don't affect that. I happened to have been in the witness protection program, so I had extra help in protecting myself, but what's happened this morning to me is not surprising. There was a lot of speechifying. The Republicans found they had really no questions very, very quickly and then just started posturing, started attacking the process and that just shows the weakness of their position overall. The Democrats obviously refuted some of that. So big picture, nothing has changed. We’re just getting more confirmation, the public’s getting educated, they’re putting faces on these people and learning what indeed — how unprecedented that — that — that a President would use his office in this manner to get political advantage over his potential opponent. 

(....)

1:54 p.m. Eastern

TOOBIN: Far be it for me to predict what viewers of Fox News will think [PANEL LAUGHS], but can we talk about what a crazy position Stewart was taking there? This President of Ukraine has people dying from lack of military equipment. He has people dying every day because they don't have military equipment. Donald Trump holds in his hand the potential to save the lives of Ukrainians. Do you think maybe he's going to agree to what Donald Trump says about anything to get that money? I mean, the idea that this is some — well, it would be nice if you investigated Joe Biden. It's not a request. It's a demand with Ukrainians lives on the line. 

(...)

2:06 p.m. Eastern

TAPPER: Andrew McCabe, let me — let me ask you, just bigger picture, without getting into the semantic debate of quid pro quo versus bribery and there was a report in The Washington Post that Democrats had actually used focus groups to figure out what to call this so as to get into voters' heads —

MCCABE: Sure. 

TAPPER: — what the President is accused of doing. As somebody who has investigated crimes, President Trump does not use the word demand on the phone call. He just does not say, I demand you do this if you want that. He does not use the term quid pro quo. 

MCCABE: That's right. 

TAPPER: He asks for a favor in the context of Rus — Ukraine, rather, saying that they appreciate the military aid and the president saying, you are not doing enough to reciprocate this friendship. Is it a demand in your view? 

MCCABE: It’s absolutely a demand. Not even arguable and I should say over the course of many years investigating organized crime and listening to many conversations in which organized crime figures would try to bend inferiors or victims to their will, no one ever says I'm going to offer you a quid pro quo, or here's how I'll walk through the terms of our bribery. [PANEL LAUGHS] What you have, the person with the power uses that power to coerce the subservient person to do or produce whatever it is they want. The key to this phone call, of course, everyone looks first to the paragraph in which the President says, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” You have to go back before that to the President's prior paragraph where he completely sets up the demand. He says, “but the United States has been very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that this was reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good, but the United States has been very good to Ukraine.” So, he's putting him in a position, hey, we've been very good to you, we’ve given you all this support, we're on your side. You haven't done anything for us and it's on the tail of that setup that he said, but first I'd like to you do us a favor, though. So, it’s absolutely clear that the president of Ukraine is not in a position to resist. He is, as Jeffrey mentioned, absolutely desperate for this security aid and in another way desperate for the White House meeting and the recognition that comes along with that. He is not in a position to say no to the President's request and that makes it a demand.

(....)

2:28 p.m. Eastern

BASH: It bears repeating that a Republican White House, any White House, okay, let’s just say that, but especially a Republican White House uses a taxpayer-funded Twitter account to attack a man in uniform who has shrapnel in his body after getting injured by a roadside bomb while serving this country in a war zone is — is just mind blowing. I mean, again, this is one of those things, where it’s like, okay, this is what the Trump White House does. This is what the President sanctions. It's unbelievable. As a Republic —

TOOBIN: Really? How about — how about Donald Trump — 

BASH; It is! No, it is. It is. It is.

TOOBIN: — attacking a Gold Star family. Why does this surprise you at all? 

BASH: No, I'm not saying it surprises me. 

TOOBIN: Oh, okay.

BASH: I'm saying it's something that bears noting that is remarkable that the entire Republican Party, except for those Never Trumpers, to go back to that conversation, has moved towards saying, this is okay. I mean —

COATES: Well, not only okay, it's actually not persuasive at all. We’re talking about them fact witnesses. I mean, that’s what they are. Fact witness. So they’re not actually people who are testifying about facts in the ballot box or something related to an election if they were perhaps I could make a stretch and say, well, I wonder why you were there in the first place? Was it a primary? No. They're listening to a phone call. Remember what the role they both played were. They were listening to that infamous July 25th phone call. They weren’t even talking about issues even related to their personal views. They were giving observational skills and information and it’s no more relevant their party than it would be somebody witnessed the car accident and say whether the light wag green or red, whether they themselves were blue or red. And so I look at this issues and I know you’re trying to taint it and say you can surmise facts or you can change objective facts depending upon the person’s interpretation. But that's not truly the core of this issue. It's whether or not they heard the President of the United States say words that he himself in a rough transcript provided to the American team already. So, the corroboration is already there.

(....)

2:54 p.m. Eastern

TOOBIN: Well, I think — draw a distinction here. I think it's perfectly fair for Republicans to challenge his credibility. He’s an important witness. He’s an incriminating witness. If you're trying to defend the President, you want to try to — try to challenge his story. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Now, the idea that one way of doing that is persuading — is persuading the public that he's somehow not a patriotic American, that his great ambition in life is to be the defense minister of Ukraine which is this perhaps real, perhaps joking job offer he received is pretty absurd but I do — I do think Republicans have every right to challenge a — a witness who gave a very incriminating story. Now, as I listen to the testimony, I didn't think they succeeded very well, but the effort seems like it’s a perfectly legitimate thing to me.  

NB Daily Trump Impeachment Ukraine Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNN Dana Bash Jake Tapper John King Jeffrey Toobin Donald Trump Andrew McCabe John Dean
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