Hours before the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump began on Tuesday, NBC’s Today show seized on “outraged” Democrats preemptively trashing the proceeding as a “national disgrace” and blasting the rules proposed by Republicans. The broadcast dutifully parroted those talking points despite the slipshod manner in which liberal lawmakers conducted impeachment in the House.
“Republicans laying out a plan that would speed through the proceedings with marathon days, potentially 12 hours each,” correspondent Peter Alexander fretted. He quickly seized on the DNC line of the day: “Democrats are outraged by this. They describe it as a national disgrace. The rules, they say, were intended to hide the facts.”
Minutes later, co-host Savannah Guthrie declared that “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has really fast tracked this process” and worried: “Do you think that’s fair? I mean, do you think that’s hurting the Democrats’ ability to put on their case?” Former Democratic Missouri Senator and current NBC News political analyst Claire McCaskill channeled her party’s whining: “It’s an outrage. It’s an absolute outrage.”
She even claimed she “could hear the wailing all the way from Washington last night when this came out.”
Turning to National Review editor Rich Lowry, Guthrie pressed: “Rich, do you think it’s a shrewd move by Mitch McConnell or is he playing games?” Lowry pointed out the “pretty stark hypocrisy on the Democratic side here” given how “they expedited the impeachment in the House because extending it would be awkward for their vulnerable members.”
He then downplayed the melodramatic pronouncements: “I guarantee you, after two days we will know what the Democratic argument is. And the fact of the matter is, whether it was two days, three days, four days, the outcome in the Senate is gonna be the same.”
Rounding out the discussion, legal analyst and MSNBC anchor Ari Melber asserted that Senate Republicans were “clearly rushing this” and accused McConnell of “drawing out the partisan war” to distract from the broader impeachment trial.
All the media have to do every day of this trial is see what Democrats are saying that morning and repeat the narrative.
Here is a transcript of the January 21 coverage:
7:03 AM ET
PETER ALEXANDER: This impeachment trial, as you noted, begins in earnest today with opening arguments set for tomorrow. But not until after a debate and a vote, or more than one, over the rules, with Republicans laying out a plan that would speed through the proceedings with marathon days, potentially 12 hours each. According to these rules, this blueprint, both sides would get 24 hours, but those would be confined over just two days, which means opening arguments, 48 hours in all, could be smushed into four days total. Democrats are outraged by this. They describe it as a national disgrace. The rules, they say, were intended to hide the facts.
We have already seen a preview of the positions from both sides. The Republicans, led by Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, filing a 110-page brief where they say this is a politically brazen act. They suggest that the rules, the articles should be thrown out all together, the argument being that President Trump did nothing wrong. The Democrats say the argument from the Republicans, from the President’s side, is deeply flawed. They insist it only shows that the President is guilty, not innocent.
7:07 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: First of all, let’s talk about the process because that’s the first fight that’s already off and running. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has really fast tracked this process. He says, “Alright both sides, you’ve got 24 hours to make your cases and you’ve got to do it over four days.” Simple, back-of-the-envelope math, that makes for two very long days for Democrats, and then for Republicans. Do you think that’s fair? I mean, do you think that’s hurting the Democrats’ ability to put on their case?
FMR. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL [D-MO]: It’s an outrage. It’s an absolute outrage.
MCCASKILL: And I could hear the wailing all the way from Washington last night when this came out. Can you imagine if you came to jury duty and the judge said you’re going to hear evidence at two in the morning? How you would react to that? There is no excuse for this to start at 1:00 in the afternoon and go until the middle of the night. This is important stuff. Whether you agree with the President or disagree with the President, there’s no excuse for the Senate to decide that this important evidence, for both sides, is going to be heard in the middle of the night.
GUTHRIE: Rich, do you think it’s a shrewd move by Mitch McConnell or is he playing games?
RICH LOWRY: Well, clearly he and the President want to get this over with as quickly as possible. But I think there’s pretty stark hypocrisy on the Democratic side here. Where they expedited the impeachment in the House because extending it would be awkward for their vulnerable members. Now they want to slow-walk the trial because they know it will be awkward for vulnerable Republican members in the Senate.
Clinton impeachment, there were three days for each side to make the case, they’ll be two days here. I guarantee you, after two days we will know what the Democratic argument is. And the fact of the matter is, whether it was two days, three days, four days, the outcome in the Senate is gonna be the same.
7:08 AM ET
GUTHRIE: Could it be a favor to Democrats if they had to really tighten their case? Not go until 1:00 in the morning, but do it in a shorter, tighter timeframe?
ARI MELBER: In that regard, the lawyers who present these cases and these Democratic House managers are like everyone else. They like as much time as possible to finish their homework. I think there is a question about how much of this will be seen by the public. They’re clearly rushing this. The other thing that Senator McConnell is doing, which is where the trial and the political strategy intersect is he’s drawing out the partisan war right up into this morning. Everyone is waking up to this trail, a rare thing, a president on trial, and it’s already a huge and intense partisan battle. He’s gotten that started over the rules before we even get to the real big debate, which is whether witnesses will be heard.