During Tuesday night’s dinner break in the impeachment trial, CNN put forward a case that January 21, 2020, will be a day of infamy for President Trump. AC360 and Erin Burnett OutFront offered guest after guest that not only agreed with one another, but plunged further into political analysis divorced from reality.
CNN political analyst and resident drama king Carl Bernstein stated on AC360, at the end of the break, that Tuesday “was devastating for the President of the United States both short term and long term.”
Specifically, Bernstein huffed that “there was a narrative told today, uninterrupted by shirt-sleeve [sic] Jim Jordan or anybody else of a grievous abuse of power....and then a massive coverup, all of which was demonstrated fact after fact after fact and these senators had to listen to it.”
Bernstein also asserted, without evidence, that there could be “a majority of” Senate Republicans who think “Trump is unfit to hold office.”
From there, Bernstein continued spinning Resistance fan fiction by asserting (and, again, without evidence) how Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow Justices will react to the trial:
[M]eanwhile, you also have the chief justice of the United States who is going to hear many cases and assertions by Donald Trump and some of these same lawyers who lied to day I think in the long run the Supreme Court of the United States led by this chief justice might be really offended by the conduct that they are hearing and witnessing today.
In the previous hour with Erin Burnett OutFront, it wasn’t any closer to reality. CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali spun that the day was a failure for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
A day after the network portrayed McConnell as a nefarious character (“Midnight Mitch”), Neftali insisted that Tuesday showed “a much weaker Mitch McConnell,” who “assumed yesterday that he had all the votes he needed for his resolution” on rules for the Senate trial and, in CNN’s mind, that hasn’t happened.
In contrast, Naftali decided to offer criticism-free feedback for the House impeachment managers (click “expand”):
I want to talk about Val Demings for a minute....Most of these senators are lawyers and she explained what we, the American people, need to know and it is very hard when you go document by document to think that this is a — that this is some kind of fishing expedition to make these grand statements about it's a witch hunt, it's a fishing expedition. She brought it down to the document level and each of these demands was reasonable
[T]oday, Jason Crow, Val Demings, and the other managers were going point by point in a lawyerly, factual, professional way, and the senators, many of whom are lawyers, had to be affected by this.
Without a conservative counterpart, CNN political commentator and Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart joined the conga line insisting it’s been a no good, awful, very bad day for McConnell, bragging that (among other things) he was “misreading his caucus.”
Still shrilling, Lockhart argued that, in 1999, the Clinton impeachment managers were “very political” and Clinton’s attorneys “won the day,” but the roles were reversed in 2020 with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and co. being non-political.
As for the Trump team, Lockhart gloated: “[I]f I had been in the White House today I would be underneath my desk in the fetal position. That's how poorly I think particularly Jay Sekulow did.”
To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront and AC360 on January 21, click “expand.”
CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
January 21, 2020
7:29 p.m. Eastern
ERIN BURNETT: What do you make of where we are right now, Tim? You have these votes. They are going along party lines. 53 to table the documents, 47 against, completely on party lines, and they are done right now. So, just obviously you have it here. 53 to kill this amendment. It is killed. 47 to —
TIM NAFTALI: Robert Caro called Lyndon Johnson Master of the Senate and many people who looked at Mitch McConnell the way he handled the Merrick Garland manner, preventing President Obama from — from his nominee from even being considered by the Senate, thought he figured how to control the Senate. Today we see a much weaker Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell assumed yesterday that he had all the votes he needed for his resolution. He presented a very different resolution — I mean, partly the same, but he — very important —
BURNETT: Well, they had the 24 hours but there's a big difference between those being going to 1:00 in the morning or going to 9:00 at night as a simple example.
NAFTALI: — but that means — that means that he could not keep his caucus together because he had to make two hand-written changes. That's huge. For Mitch McConnell, that's not how he does business. So, this is a very interesting and important day. We see that this is much more fluid than people thought.
7:33 p.m. Eastern
JOE LOCKHART: Unless you're an inside watcher of this, you might think that the changes were not dramatic, but what they signal is Mitch McConnell misreading his caucus. He thought he had them. He would have never circulated that last night. They would have never leaked it to the press if he didn't have the votes. What happened was there was outrage. My guess is overnight, Senator Portman, Senator Collins, maybe Senator Alexander, the ones that have spoken out on it went to McConnell and said we can't do this, we cannot support this underlying resolution. So, what it means, I think, is where he thought he was in a strong position, it's weaker than he thought. This doesn't mean we'll have witnesses. It doesn’t mean we’ll have documents, but it means the push back is real within his caucus. He sees now five or six members that he has to worry about and he was forced to climb down on this and I think as Tim said, this is something that Mitch McConnell hasn't done in my memory. He forced through Merrick Garland or blocked him. He forced through Brett Kavanaugh. You want to talk about manipulating the rules of the Senate so that he could get that done? He was not able to do that here. So, I think it signals a much more fluid next week or so than we thought, you know, as early as last night.
7:41 p.m. Eastern
LOCKHART: It's worth going back to 1999 and comparing it because it's almost the opposite in my mind. I think in 1999, the House impeachment managers did a pretty good job, but they came off as very political and I think, you know, Chuck Ruff, the White House counsel, David Kendall, the President’s personal attorney, and all of the lawyers there won the day as far as the debate because they came off as factual. It was like this is what the law is, this is what happened and we’re just going to keep it at that. The opposite happened today. I think the Democrat, particularly the managers that we hadn't seen so much from, Jason Crow, Val Demings, Zoe Lofgren, you know, were very, very clear and the only way — I think Schiff was a little bit political, but there's some points that need to be rebutted and I think that is much different. You know, I told people today that if I had been in the White House today I would be underneath my desk in the fetal position. That's how poorly I think particularly Jay Sekulow did. They — it feels like they took the memo from the House Republicans and said oh yeah, we just scream and yell and say conspiracy and hoax and ridiculous and breathtaking and we'll be fine. They've misread the Senate. The Senate is very different than the House and people expected something different today and they didn't get it from the White House lawyers. Now, again, I may be wrong. We may find a different conclusion, but I think the President was let down today by his legal team.
7:44 p.m. Eastern
NAFTALI: I want to talk about Val Demings for a minute. Remember that most of these senators —
BURNETT: House impeachment managers, the
NAFTALI: — the House impeachment lawyers. Most of these senators are lawyers and she explained what we, the American people, need to know and it is very hard when you go document by document to think that this is a — that this is some kind of fishing expedition to make these grand statements about it's a witch hunt, it's a fishing expedition. She brought it down to the document level and each of these demands was reasonable. There's an advantage that the Democrat — that the House managers have gotten today. They had a chance to preview their prosecutorial briefs today.
BURNETT: Right. This is not the opening statements. It may have felt that way to some people watching, but that’s not what it was.
NAFTALI: And I think this is important for the senators, even more than the American people. One of the things I think that's true in 1999 is that the senators, despite the fact the House had these hearings, didn't know the details of the case against President Clinton. They were learning things. I think the senators are learning things today. I think many of them blocked out what happened in the House. They don't really know the details and today, Jason Crow, Val Demings, and the other managers were going point by point in a lawyerly, factual, professional way, and the senators, many of whom are lawyers, had to be affected by this.
7:59 p.m. Eastern
LOCKHART: If — you know, if — if — even the pressure of last night and the news coverage forced Collins and Portman and others into McConnell’s office saying that’s not good, that's a bad trend. But I agree also with everything that Maggie Haberman said before, which is they feel they can wrap this and hold these guys and the big thing is they will have learned stuff but the question is does it matter. If they know the case is terrible and they may still say I'm with the President.
January 21, 2020
8:08 p.m. Eastern
CARL BERNSTEIN: I think it was devastating for the President of the United States both short term and long term. Short term, there was a narrative told today, uninterrupted by shirt-sleeve [sic] Jim Jordan or anybody else of a grievous abuse of power, soliciting a foreign power to interfere in the election of the United States and then a massive coverup, all of which was demonstrated fact after fact after fact and these senators had to listen to it. They couldn't go do their homework on other things. They had to sit there and hear it and there is not — and I'm interested in what Mike [Shields] has to say about this, these are senators who many, if not a majority of the Republicans up there, think that Donald Trump is unfit to hold office and what they're hearing today confirms that. They're not going to vote to convict him. He’s going to be acquitted, but meanwhile, you also have the chief justice of the United States who is going to hear many cases and assertions by Donald Trump and some of these same lawyers who lied to day I think in the long run the Supreme Court of the United States led by this chief justice might be really offended by the conduct that they are hearing and witnessing today.