MSNBC Unmoved by ‘False Flag,’ ‘Weak Tea’ Trump Team; Matthews Says More Weird Stuff

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Just like with CNN, MSNBC spent Saturday afternoon doing their best to refrain from using positive descriptors when talking about day one of President Trump’s legal team, instead calling their brief presentation as having included “a little false flag,” not substantive, and “weak tea.” 

They also mocked Republicans being upset by Adam Schiff invoking a CBS News report with an anonymous source warning that the heads of Senate Republicans would (rhetorically) end up on pikes if they vote against Trump. And, of course, Hardball host Chris Matthews said some really weird stuff too about his childhood, but that’s near the bottom so feel free to skip that.

 

 

Lyin’ Brian Williams led off with some grievances:

By my list, the initial items that they said the Democratic managers didn't want you to hear, they didn't — they didn’t explain, burden sharing, a phrase we don't normally associate with our President, Ukraine didn't know right away, and, of course, there's direct testimony to counter there and they worked in a little false flag. They worked in the notion that Ukraine may have meddled in our election, which let's make it clear early and often is a Russian talking point. 

Another mainstay at all hours, former Senator-turned-MSNBCer Claire McCaskill replied that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow employed “[a] Russian talk point without any factual back up” and was thus “pretty weak tea.”

“[I]f you're going to stand up and counter the days of factual testimony that have been brought to the Senate floor, I would think you would come with something that is a little bit stronger than what they were able to give today....it's discouraging that there would be this much misinformation in the first two hours,” McCaskill added, faking disappointment.

MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley said that she “certainly agree[s] with Claire in terms of the substance,” but then offered the best attempt at being reasonable (click “expand”):

What I saw is, a legal team that did not have a lot to work with using what they had as effectively as they could. What I mean by that is, they were smart by starting with the facts, and doing what a legitimate defense does, which is to poke holes in facts that we heard from the House managers and that's what they focused on, because that's what they've got, right. I think they did that in an effective way in the sense that their only job is to plant enough doubt that Republican senators can hang their hat on that doubt, right. 

I think that was their strategy and by saying, one, look what the House managers kept from you, is a way of planting that doubt, and then pulling forward those facts, because it — certainly when they were being fact-based, like saying, you know, Laura Cooper didn't have notes to confirm that they received a contact from the Ukrainian embassy noting they know the aid was frozen, that is a — that is a fact, but it doesn't address the evidence that, in fact,  the House managers put on or the evidence in the public record that has come out since that, in fact, Ukrainians were worried in may about their funds. But in this context, unlike when Chuck and I would walk in before a jury where you didn't know where the jury stood, in this case they did know, and they could calibrate their doubt — planting seeds of doubt sufficiently for the political outcome they want. 

Fellow lefty legal mind Chuck Rosenberg conceded that “the Republican team defending the President knows they're not going to lose” and so “they created enough doubt, they did a good job creating doubt” even though “[t]hey didn’t have lots of facts, but they had some.”

After former Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) tried give credit where it was due to the Trump team, Williams mocked complaints from Senate Republicans about Schiff: “Can they really pin a vote on injured feelings?”

McCaskill replied:

Come on, guys. You know, listen, for anybody in the Republican Party to complain about overreach with President Trump in the White House, really? It just doesn't — it — you know, as we say in the Ozarks, that dog don't hunt.

And now we arrive at Matthews, who expressed surprise that the Bidens weren’t the day’s main focus and disagreed with Deputy White House Counsel Mike Pupura’s argument about the hold on Ukrainian aid.

But after Matthews agreed with a comparison of the impeachment vote to the Iraq war vote, Matthews uncorked a bizarre analogy about Trump and bullies since, apparently, they originate at “any reasonably urban school like I did or even at a nice school” (click “expand”):

This bullying, this use of fear is an example of exactly what the President was doing to Zelensky. So if any member who's in doubt right now about how to vote, the magic four or six or seven are potentially able to vote for witnesses, when they fear this retribution, when they fear the bullying of the President, which they know is right there ready to come after him, they know he's capable of bully and they know what he did to Zelensky, what they're afraid they're doing to them. 

Anybody who went to any reasonably urban school like I did or even at a nice school, there are bullies. There are bullies on the bus, at the PTC in Philadelphia that you don't sit near the back of the bus because the bullies are back there, you don't want to get beat up. You don’t want to be forced to eat a cigar or some other weird punishment they cooked up in the back of the bus and so they know what the bully is, this President is a bully, they’ve got evidence firsthand.

To see the relevant MSNBC transcript from January 25, click “expand.”

MSNBC Senate Impeachment Trial
January 25, 2020
12:03 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: By my list, the initial items that they said the Democratic managers didn't want you to hear, they didn't — they didn’t explain, burden sharing, a phrase we don't normally associate with our President, Ukraine didn't know right away, and, of course, there's direct testimony to counter there and they worked in a little false flag. They worked in the notion that Ukraine may have meddled in our election, which let's make it clear early and often is a Russian talking point. 

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: A Russian talk point without any factual back up. This is pretty weak tea. You know, I would — if you're going to stand up and counter the days of factual testimony that have been brought to the Senate floor, I would think you would come with something that is a little bit stronger than what they were able to give today. You know, and overall, they kept pushing this theme that he cared about corruption. Now try this on for size. The President right now is trying to overturn the laws that ban bribery overseas, right? 

WILLIAMS: Yeah. 

MCCASKILL: He wants people to be able to go over from our country and bribe people in foreign countries, so clearly this guy has a — he's a corruption fighter. I mean, it is so ludicrous that this was about either burden sharing or corruption. All you have to do is look at the facts. If you talked to his staff, Europe was giving more money to the Ukraine than we were in terms of rebuilding and supporting them. So we were not leading the pack in terms of helping Ukraine. Other countries were and it is — it's discouraging that there would be this much misinformation in the first two hours. 

WILLIAMS: Maya Wiley on the law, on strategy, what did you witness this morning?

MAYA WILEY: Well, what I saw, and I certainly agree with Claire in terms of the substance. What I saw is, a legal team that did not have a lot to work with using what they had as effectively as they could. What I mean by that is, they were smart by starting with the facts, and doing what a legitimate defense does, which is to poke holes in facts that we heard from the House managers and that's what they focused on, because that's what they've got, right.

I think they did that in an effective way in the sense that their only job is to plant enough doubt that Republican senators can hang their hat on that doubt, right. I think that was their strategy and by saying, one, look what the House managers kept from you, is a way of planting that doubt, and then pulling forward those facts, because it — certainly when they were being fact-based, like saying, you know, Laura Cooper didn't have notes to confirm that they received a contact from the Ukrainian embassy noting they know the aid was frozen, that is a — that is a fact, but it doesn't address the evidence that, in fact,  the House managers put on or the evidence in the public record that has come out since that, in fact, Ukrainians were worried in may about their funds. But in this context, unlike when Chuck and I would walk in before a jury where you didn't know where the jury stood, in this case they did know, and they could calibrate their doubt — planting seeds of doubt sufficiently for the political outcome they want. 

WILLIAMS: How rare in life you remind me that you know you're addressing a 53-47 jury, at least that's been the tally. 

(....)

12:09:26 p.m.
54 seconds

CHUCK ROSENBERG: All they need to do to succeed is hold what they already know they have, right? And by the way, it would have to be so compelling from the House managers’ side to win over enough Democratic senators to get you to that constitutional threshold of 67, that I think the Republican team defending the President knows they're not going to lose. So, to Maya's point, and I hate going after Maya, because all I have to do is say —

MCCASKILL: She's right. 

ROSENBERG: — she's right. 

MCCASKILL: I know it's boring, ain’t it? 

ROSENBERG: What she said. But she's right, what she said, they created enough doubt, they did a good job creating doubt. They didn’t have lots of facts, but they had some and by articulating the facts they had, they can give Republican senators or perhaps Republican senators who might be wavering, enough to latch onto, mission accomplished from that vantage point. 

(....)

12:11:19 p.m.
2 minutes and 34 seconds

CARLOS CURBELO: In some ways, the President's attorney presentation was surprising. A lot of people were expecting a more animated, fiery display on the Senate floor. It was more technical and sober, certainly by this President’s standards. I asked some of the house Republicans the president has appointed to his defense team why, and they’re confident. They're saying they believe that the impeachment managers last night went too far, alienated some of the Senate Republicans who might have been more sympathetic to their cause, that Senate Republicans are now unified. The other interesting detail they pointed out is they think that a lot of Americans just aren't tuned in. One of them said we're here, this is a big deal, obviously, and outside the Capitol today, it was quiet, there was no one. So I think this presentation today was somewhat muted because the President's team doesn't feel threatened right now. They don't think they will be any Republican defectors. 

WILLIAMS: There's John Cornyn from Texas. Claire, last night, the emotional high point, if you will, Adam Schiff quoted this CBS News report. Unnamed aide to President Trump saying Republicans would have their heads on a pike if they didn't vote with the President. Several Republican senators took umbrage. Collins is said to have reacted verbally in the chamber. Murkowski was hurt afterwards. Can they really pin a vote on injured feelings? 

MCCASKILL: Come on, guys. You know, listen, for anybody in the Republican Party to complain about overreach with President Trump in the White House, really? It just doesn't — it — you know, as we say in the Ozarks, that dog don't hunt. Here's the reality. This President goes after you if you oppose him. That's clear. I mean, ask Jeff Flake. Let's call Bob Corker. How about Sanford? How about Jeff Sessions?

CURBELO: Well, Senator, and what about what happened in the house? 

MCCASKILL: Yes. 

CURBELO: One Republican who defected can no longer be a Republican, so although Chairman Schiff's style may not have been the most persuasive —

MCCASKILL: Right. I mean —

CURBELO: — I think it's obviously true that in today's Republican Party, the President demands absolute loyalty. 

(....)

12:43:01 p.m.
2 minutes and 59 seconds

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, we all thought, based upon the press reports it was going to be an attack on the Biden family, Joseph, the former vice president and his son Hunter. Today was a remedial lesson going back to way in the beginning, going back to the whistle-blower, and anyone who's been following this story knows that the whistle-blower opened the door to the truth and we got the truth and then ceased to be important. They just got the door open and we got information independently of the whistle-blower, but people who haven't been following this, who they're talking to, don't know that and in the six points that were made by Purpura today — Purpura — Mike Purpura made today, that he said were established are not established. The fact — first of all, the pause, the use of the word “pause” — 

WILLIAMS: I noted that. 

MATTHEWS: — it's a dainty word, paused. They held up the money and do you think Zelensky didn't know they were holding up the money? Well, we know — you established with the tape there that he knew it damn well and he knew it right away and the fact that the President said I’d like a favor, though, was to someone who desperately needed aid. The conversation was like with an employer, am I going to get my contract renewed? Well then, that's the only conversation. You know what the conversation is about. When somebody says, well, I'd like a favor, though. Well, you damn well listen to that and you knew what it meant, I want the White House meeting, the military aid, the Javelin missiles to fight the tanks.

I thought was preliminary, but there's something growing since this morning and that's the use of the word fear by Patty Murray. I thought it was fascinating to talk about the Iraq vote and whether we should go to — authorize to go into war against Iraq. She said there was fear around that, you will be punished, Senator, if you don't back that, maybe the friends of Israel, maybe the hawks, someone is going to get you politically for this. You’re going to pay politically for this if you don’t back that war and I know people who voted for the war basically out of defense. You know, we better — it’s a safe bet. It was the smart move, as we say in Godfather talk. You might as well support the war because you're better off that way cause you're covered. You’re covered if we win, then you look good. If we lose, whatever, you’re covered politically.

This bullying, this use of fear is an example of exactly what the President was doing to Zelensky. So if any member who's in doubt right now about how to vote, the magic four or six or seven are potentially able to vote for witnesses, when they fear this retribution, when they fear the bullying of the President, which they know is right there ready to come after him, they know he's capable of bully and they know what he did to Zelensky, what they're afraid they're doing to them. Anybody who went to any reasonably urban school like I did or even at a nice school, there are bullies. There are bullies on the bus, at the PTC in Philadelphia that you don't sit near the back of the bus because the bullies are back there, you don't want to get beat up. You don’t want to be forced to eat a cigar or some other weird punishment they cooked up in the back of the bus and so they know what the bully is, this President is a bully, they’ve got evidence firsthand.

NB Daily Trump Impeachment MSNBC Chris Matthews Brian Williams Claire McCaskill Donald Trump Adam Schiff
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