Santorum Hammers CNN Lefties Bashing GOP, ‘Sham’ Witness Vote as a ‘Travesty’

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With rare exceptions, the litany of liberal journalists, lefty analysts, and former Obama officials have free rein on CNN to pontificate without pushback. 

Unfortunately for legal analysts Preet Bharara and Jeffrey Toobin on Friday after the Senate impeachment trial’s witness vote, senior political commentator and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) was on set to push back after they called the vote “an absolute travesty,” “a sham,” “a shame” and a departure from “common sense.”

 

Toobin spoke seconds after the vote and began by conceding: “Trump won. I mean, you know, he's going to win this trial. He won on the issue of witnesses. He's going to get acquitted, and that — that’s how history will remember what went on here.”

However, he quickly pivoted to the lack of new witnesses in the Senate:

The idea that John Bolton is out there with a book and giving speeches for money and said he's willing — and — and, you know, having someone leaking the contents of that book daily to The New York Times, and the Senate decided not to hear from John Bolton is just an absolute travesty. 

Santorum interjected to note that many senators have argued “that the House case as presented in the articles of impeachment is not sufficient on its face to vote to remove a president.”

A little while after Santorum threw down with former Obama official Carrie Cordero, former Obama U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara bemoaned the vote as “a travesty” then “both” “a sham” and “a shame.”

Bharara then decided to attack Santorum’s rare dissenting view, so the battle was on (click “expand”):

BHARARA: And the fact that, you know, the former senator there on your panel that says, well, there is a technical argument that the Senate trial was based on even without witnesses or documents, was based on the limited record provided to the House. 

SANTORUM: Not what I said. Preet —

BHARARA: That's not — that’s not how people are going to perceive it. 

SANTORUM: — Preet, but hold on one second, Preet that is not what I’m saying. Just be very clear because everybody is misrepresenting what I'm saying. I'm not talking about the record. I'm talking about the articles of impeachment themselves. Not the witnesses, not the record. The actual allegations made against the President in Article I and Article II are, of themselves, insufficient to remove a president. That's what Republicans are saying. You can argue all you want about witnesses, you can argue all you want about documents, the point that's being made I it's almost — we'll demur. We’ll say — okay, we ex — Lamar Alexander — 

BHARARA: But — but, Senator —

SANTORUM: — I’ll except everything to be true — 

BHARARA: — Senator, Senator —

SANTORUM: — still not guilty.

BHARARA: Senator, that wasn't a motion to dismiss. That was motion to seek witness testimony and people understand, no matter what legal or technical argument you're going to make about sufficiency or you're going to make about the closed record of the House —

SANTORUM: Why would you bring witnesses to a charge that itself is not an abuse — 

BHARARA: — can I — can I — 

TAPPER: Senator, just let — let — let — let Preet — let him finish.

BHARARA: — Senator, I know — I know you used to be an elected official, but we’re both now private citizens and I think I should be able to finish my sentence.

Bharara responded by condescendingly asserting that “[c]ommon sense reigns supreme” and that America will collectively “perceive” the refusal to extend the trial “as a sham.” He also added (without evidence) that senators know “it’s a sham.”

Just after the top of the hour, trial coverage co-host Jake Tapper threw in with Bharara and Toobin by calling it “remarkable” that Republicans rejected the calls for witnesses to instead “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Like Bharara did, Toobin decided to mock Santorum and the GOP as being “completely okay” for Trump doing what he did concerning Ukraine.

Again, Toobin must not be used to facing resistance as Santorum unloaded (click “expand”):

SANTORUM: Well, first off, I'm not saying and no Republican senator is saying they think it's fine. There are a few — I shouldn’t say no — there are some who are lined up squarely with President Trump who said, the call was perfect, but not very many that you've heard comment since this impeachment trial has taken place....But the question is, do you — number one, and this is — but this is what the Democrats are asking for. They're asking to throw the President out of office and take him off the ballot for the next office. That is, as I think Lamar Alexander said, that’s the death penalty for something — I mean, there’s lots of crimes, there’s lots of things that people do wrong, but this is a high crime that deserves the death penalty, and Republicans are saying just like Democrats said in Bill Clinton — in my day when I voted impeachment because the president committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, crimes, but they said it’s not a high crime. I understand their point of view, but what I don't understand is when I hear Preet and you say, well, these are just, you know, it's an outrageous claim and it's not a high crime. It's not..[B]ut to say that you can’t — you can't give any quarter to someone who feels that way is just harsh. 

TOOBIN: Well, it may be harsh and we can disagree about the seriousness, but — but, Rick, the idea that there are a lot of Senators, you know, critical of the President when they're so terrified of him that use words like — 

SANTORUM: Look at their statements.

TOOBIN: — in artful and — and inappropriate and that they are killing themselves to get this thing done by the State of the Union so Donald Trump doesn't get mad at them. I mean, this is hardly any condemnation from the Republicans who run the U.S. Senate. Come on, Rick.

Bharara jumped back in, arguing that “I actually don't think it's a crazy, outrageous, absurd position” if a senator would have voted to acquit Trump (even though he would vote to remove) so long as “all the available evidence” and witnesses were put on the table.

Bharara proceeded to declare what instead happened to have been “stupid and silly and self-destructive and self-defeating.”

That hilariously led into the New York attorney’s prediction from CNN’s New York studios that “in the common sense world in which Americans live in this country, they will not understand this vote” and view senators as “craven,” scared,” and “get[ting] off the stage with their tails between their legs.”

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Situation Room on January 31, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Situation Room
January 31, 2020
5:56 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, step back a little bit. Give us the big picture right now of what we're seeing. 

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Trump won. I mean, you know, he's going to win this trial. He won on the issue of witnesses. He's going to get acquitted, and that — that’s how history will remember what went on here. I — I think history will also record that there are at least one, and perhaps other, pivotal, pivotal witnesses who were available to the House of Representatives to talk — to the Senate to talk about the precise issue that is the subject of — of this impeachment trial and the Senate decided not to hear from him. The idea that John Bolton is out there with a book and giving speeches for money and said he's willing — and — and, you know, having someone leaking the contents of that book daily to The New York Times, and the Senate decided not to hear from John Bolton is just an absolute travesty. 

RICK SANTORUM: It’s because — it’s because, Jeffrey, it's because, as you heard from many senators who have commented since, you will hear from many more, they believe that the House case as presented in the articles of impeachment is not sufficient on its face to vote to remove a president. 

(....)

5:59 p.m. Eastern

PREET BHARARA: I agree with the adjectives that have been used by other people. It's a travesty. I go back and forth between thinking, do you call it a sham or do you call it a shame? And it's probably both those things. Look, John Bolton is going to testify in a way. But it won’t be under oath and it won’t be in the Senate. He’s going to testify in a manner of speaking night after night on television and on the road and on the radio and in editorial pages for weeks and weeks and weeks. This is different from a case where you might not have a person speak out publicly. He's going to end up, I believe, winning the battle with respect to his book which will be an important legal battle to watch in the coming weeks, then he'll be free to speak in some way or another and the fact that, you know, the former senator there on your panel that says, well, there is a technical argument that the Senate trial was based on even without witnesses or documents, was based on the limited record provided to the House. 

SANTORUM: Not what I said. Preet —

BHARARA: That's not — that’s not how people are going to perceive it. 

SANTORUM: — Preet, but hold on one second, Preet that is not what I’m saying. Just be very clear because everybody is misrepresenting what I'm saying. I'm not talking about the record. I'm talking about the articles of impeachment themselves. Not the witnesses, not the record. The actual allegations made against the President in Article I and Article II are, of themselves, insufficient to remove a president. That's what Republicans are saying. You can argue all you want about witnesses, you can argue all you want about documents, the point that's being made I it's almost — we'll demur. We’ll say — okay, we ex — Lamar Alexander — 

BHARARA: But — but, Senator —

SANTORUM: — I’ll except everything to be true — 

BHARARA: — Senator, Senator —

SANTORUM: — still not guilty.

BHARARA: Senator, that wasn't a motion to dismiss. That was motion to seek witness testimony and people understand, no matter what legal or technical argument you're going to make about sufficiency or you're going to make about the closed record of the House —

SANTORUM: Why would you bring witnesses to a charge that itself is not an abuse — 

BHARARA: — can I — can I — 

TAPPER: Senator, just let — let — let — let Preet — let him finish.

BHARARA: — Senator, I know — I know you used to be an elected official, but we’re both now private citizens and I think I should be able to finish my sentence.

SANTORUM: Respond to my question.

BHARARA: Common sense reigns supreme and people understand that when you have a person like John Bolton who is close to the President, after the President's supporters and lawyers were saying week after week after week, you have no evidence of someone who has firsthand knowledge, and this person has firsthand knowledge and is prepared to testify, the public is going to perceive that as a sham and I think that they will. And there’s a reason why I think there is a debate in the Senate right now about how much deliberation because senators who understand that it's a sham, and that common sense renders it a sham, don't want to spend a lot of time on this and have to explain. And some people do want to explain because they have constituencies who will be asking them the question, you have a guy who has firsthand knowledge who undermines the chief defense of the President of the United States. Why don't you let him testify?

(....)

6:03 p.m. Eastern

TAPPER: And the fact that this was done and Senator Santorum and former U.S. Attorney Bharara were just debating this, the fact that this is done with a former national security adviser to President Trump, John Bolton, a conservative icon out there saying he's willing to testify if he's subpoenaed -- which is a change. He didn't have that position and then he announced he was willing to do that. The New York Times is reporting that go this book, in the book, Bolton claims to have firsthand testimony in which he says President Trump was directly linking $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine with his demand that they announce investigations into the Bidens. That's what the book says, according to The New York Times. And in addition to that, the former chief of staff to President Trump, John Kelly, marine general, very conservative, is out there saying the U.S. Senate should hear from John Bolton, and even though Trump claims that what Bolton is saying is not true, I believe Bolton, even though Kelly and Bolton used to fight all the time. Even among all that, 51 Republican senators said, we don't need to hear. We don't need to hear, and that's just remarkable. I understand that there is all sorts of issues as to why they did that, and Senator Santorum is here to explain that, but it is remarkable on its face. Two very prominent conservative conservatives, Kelly and Bolton, out there saying there is more to the story and Republicans in the Senate, you know, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

BLITZER: They’ve heard enough. 

(....)

6:10 p.m. Eastern

TOOBIN: The Republicans take it as a given — this is the argument that Alan Dershowitz made during the trial, which is even if you accept every single thing that Adam Schiff said and the other managers said as true, this is not an impeachable offense, so it doesn't matter what the witnesses say. It is completely okay. It is completely not impeachable that the President went to a leader of a foreign country and said, you are not getting the taxpayer dollars that the Congress authorized for you unless you give me dirt on Joe Biden. That's fine. That's totally fine and we don't need to hear any witnesses on that and I think — you know, I think Rick is exactly right, that they don't need any witnesses because they think that's fine. 

SANTORUM: Well, first off, I'm not saying and no Republican senator is saying they think it's fine. There are a few — I shouldn’t say no — there are some who are lined up squarely with President Trump who said, the call was perfect, but not very many that you've heard comment since this impeachment trial has taken place. In fact, everyone that I've heard comment talked about one word — some said wrong, some said inarticulate, some said in artful, you’re getting — Republicans are recognizing that what the President did was not perfect, or in some cases, not close to perfect. But the question is, do you — number one, and this is — but this is what the Democrats are asking for. They're asking to throw the President out of office and take him off the ballot for the next office. That is, as I think Lamar Alexander said, that’s the death penalty for something — I mean, there’s lots of crimes, there’s lots of things that people do wrong, but this is a high crime that deserves the death penalty, and Republicans are saying just like Democrats said in Bill Clinton — in my day when I voted impeachment because the president committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, crimes, but they said it’s not a high crime. I understand their point of view, but what I don't understand is when I hear Preet and you say, well, these are just, you know, it's an outrageous claim and it's not a high crime. It's not. It is — I gave Democrats in 1999, I said, look, I understand their point of view. I don't agree with it, but to say that you can’t — you can't give any quarter to someone who feels that way is just harsh. 

TOOBIN: Well, it may be harsh and we can disagree about the seriousness, but — but, Rick, the idea that there are a lot of Senators, you know, critical of the President when they're so terrified of him that use words like — 

SANTORUM: Look at their statements.

TOOBIN: — in artful and — and inappropriate and that they are killing themselves to get this thing done by the State of the Union so Donald Trump doesn't get mad at them. I mean, this is hardly any condemnation from the Republicans who run the U.S. Senate. Come on, Rick.

SANTORUM: All I can tell you is all the Democrats in 1999 voted to dismiss it right after — even before witnesses. 

BLITZER: Alright, let’s bring in Preet. Preet Bharara right now — I know you’re anxious to weigh in as well. 

BHARARA: Yes, I actually don't think it's a crazy, outrageous, absurd position if in good conscience, Democrat or Republican, after hearing all the available evidence and evidence that's begging to come into the trial, decide, you know what? This was a terrible thing the President did, and for various reasons, consistent with what I think the Constitution says in my own oath, and my confidence, probably with a mix of politics in there, I just don’t think we should remove a President. I don’t agree with that. That would not be my vote if I were a senator, but I think that’s reasonable. What I think is not reasonable and what I actually think is stupid and silly and self-destructive and self-defeating is when you have this witness, John Bolton, who so clearly has relevant information, that came available a little bit late in the process, wants to come forward. I think those senators who voted against hearing him, notwithstanding these other arguments you keep making about what the record shows or doesn't show or whether or not they met a threshold of argument, in the common sense world in which Americans live in this country, they will not understand this vote. It looks like they’re scared. It looks like they’re craven. It looks like they’re get off the stage with their tails between their legs and I think that’s not — that’s not going to fly well. 

SANTORUM: Preet, I'm going to agree with you. I think that's a risk that Republicans are taking right now just as I would say that the Democrats took the same risk in ramming this through the House of Representatives. You heard Republicans talk process, process, process and — and Democrats ignored that process. And again, I think each side will have their own talking points. Whether it has a determinative affect on people’s votes in November, I think is more suspect.

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