During Thursday’s edition of Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough brought up the well-worn topic of invoking the 25th Amendment. Apparently, a New Year does not mean that MSNBC hosts have come up with new talking points to use when expressing their disdain for President Trump.
Just two and a half months ago, Scarborough’s co-host Mika Brzezinski had described President Trump as “not fit, possibly not even well,” urging the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment because he committed the impeachable offense of calling Stormy Daniels “horseface.” Scarborough and Brzezinski’s MSNBC colleague, Nicolle Wallace, had argued that Congress needed to have a “serious debate about the 25th Amendment,” following the publication of Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House called Fear. This time, it looks like the Morning Joe panel has finally found the smoking gun that will lead to President Trump’s removal from office: the presence of a “Game of Thrones” style poster accompanied by the phrase “sanctions are coming” at a Trump cabinet meeting.
According to Scarborough, “yesterday’s press conference reminded me of the story about putting the frog in a pot of water, turning it to a slow boil, the frog not realizing what was happening… and pretty soon it’s at a full boil and the frog dies. Yesterday, that frog found himself in a five alarm fire looking at the movie poster.”
At this point, Scarborough pleaded with the Trump cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment: “if we had a cabinet that was filled with people with more character...if we had a House and a Senate that took their job seriously, there would be people going up to the White House this morning saying, Mr. President, questions abound whether your are fit for this office...if this continues, we are going to ask your cabinet to take a vote on whether you are fit for office and invoke the 25th Amendment.”
While Scarborough specifically cited the President’s behavior during the cabinet meeting as the justification for invoking the 25th Amendment, he later made it sound like his foreign policy decisions warrant his removal from office: “he is pushing foreign policy initiatives that are actually going to do grave damage to this country.” Scarborough also expressed wishful thinking that the Republican Party has reached an “inflection point” because of Mitt Romney’s op-ed, in addition to cheering a Wall Street Journal piece suggesting that America “may not be able to handle…a second Trump term.”
Brzezinski argued that Romney’s piece provided “an opening for Republicans” to distance themselves from President Trump. Scarborough agreed, predicting that three vulnerable Senators up for re-election in 2020 will become the next dominoes to fall. Scarborough correctly identified two of the three vulnerable Republicans; Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins but he incorrectly claimed that North Carolina’s Richard Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, is up for re-election in 2020. Burr has already announced he will retire when his term expires, in 2022. Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s other Senator whose term expires in 2020, was probably who Scarborough had in mind.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s Morning Joe is below. Click “expand” to read more.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: We know that he certainly doesn’t understand the impact of his ignorance on America’s standing across the globe. Michael Steele, let’s talk about his standing though inside the Republican Party. We saw Mitt Romney come out with a strong op-ed two days ago. Of course, I was humored by, let’s say, certain blue checkmarks on the far left who attacked Romney’s op-ed.
MICHAEL STEELE: Yeah.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, these are the same people who have been bitching for years that Republicans aren’t speaking out against Donald Trump. And here is a guy…I never saw it happen, I certainly never saw it during the Clinton administration when every Democrat I knew in the House and the Senate were attacking Bill Clinton privately in the last two years of his presidency.
SCARBOROUGH: But Romney made a forceful statement before he was being sworn in. We’ll see how he follows through. But just that op-ed before being sworn in was a remarkable thing. And while some toadies attacked Romney, for the most part, the Republican Party was silent yesterday. You read The Wall Street Journal today, there’s criticisms of the President on the editorial page today, some suggesting that we may not be able to handle…
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: My gosh.
SCARBOROUGH: … a second Trump term. Are we seeing an inflection point and are we going to see more of this from Republicans in 2019?
STEELE: I think that is the prevailing question within Republican circles, Joe. I think what Romney did was he finally put a crack in the wall that has been systemically built by grassroots activists, RNC members, other leaders around the country, certainly in that cabinet room as you listen to the Acting Attorney General wax poetic about the President’s behavior over the holidays. Romney’s op-ed, leading off the way he did before he takes the oath of office, I think sent a signal that there’s a change a coming in the way that this Senate, with him in it, will respond to this President. I think Mitch McConnell notwithstanding, and that will be an interesting little game of chess between the two of them, McConnell wanting control, command and control of the Senate caucus in terms of having a unified front on behalf of the President’s agenda and Mitt Romney, who is drawing a very fine line, Joe, around character. A lot of folks kind of missed the point of this op-ed.
STEELE: That, you know, Romney was not saying, oh, I don’t like the judges that have been appointed, I don’t like the tax cuts, I don’t like the big policy initiatives that have had some successful impacts on the economy and certainly for the party. What I have and where I’m drawing the line is on the character of the man holding the office and how he diminishes the office, I think symbolized in that poster that we were just talking about on the desk, the sort of reality TV presidency that’s only interested in the next episode, not the impact of the ideas and the policies that are coming forth. And I think Romney wants to draw that distinction.
SCARBOROUGH: It is a bizarre world, Mika, that we all are…a political world we’re all a part of. And it reminds me, yesterday’s press conference reminded me of the story about putting the frog in a pot of water, turning it to a slow boil, the frog not realizing what was happening…
SCARBOROUGH: …and pretty soon it’s at a full boil and the frog dies. Yesterday, that frog found himself in a five alarm fire looking at the movie poster…
BRZEZINSKI: It’s just strange.
SCARBOROUGH: …and all the other chaos that was raining around that White House. Again, if…if, if and it’s a big if. If we had a cabinet that was filled with people with more character, so many that had character have been fired. If we had a House and a Senate that took their job seriously, there would be people going up to the White House this morning saying, Mr. President, questions abound whether you are fit for this office.
BRZEZINSKI: That’s right.
SCARBOROUGH: If this continues, we are going to ask your cabinet to take a vote on whether you are fit for office and invoke the 25th Amendment. If you had seen any President and I just…people are going to say, oh this is, this is…you know, oh, this is a bridge too far. If any President, any of the 44 Presidents had behaved that way, then those questions would have been raised. If Barack Obama had done that in 2013, those questions would have been raised by Republicans. They would have probably tried to start impeachment hearings. If George W. Bush had done it, Democrats would do the same and rightly so. This is a man who obviously is not fit to hold the office. And we’ve known that for a very long time. But he keeps giving, Mika, a preponderance of evidence to those cabinet members and members of the House and the Senate that would carry that vote. He is not fit, he is not acting fit, and he is pushing foreign policy initiatives that are actually going to do grave damage to this country, our national security, and embolden and strengthen our enemy. So Iran is not having a terrible year. Iran is having a wonderful year. We just ceded Syria to Iran. They now have an active and open supply chain down to Hezbollah and anybody else that wants to destroy the state of Israel.
BRZEZINSKI: Statements about his fitness are better coming from you than me, but for the Republicans who are criticizing Mitt Romney for the piece he wrote, head of the RNC, which is stunning, Mitch McConnell, Attorney General Whitaker who obviously took the loyalty oath…
SCARBOROUGH: Acting Attorney General.
BRZEZINSKI: And has…Acting, as among many actings. Let me explain to you what Mitt Romney’s piece was about because clearly, you don’t get it. He’s creating an opening for you. His piece was about character. His piece was about decency. His piece was about civility. His piece was about American moral character. No more than that. And he was asking for you to call this President out and hold him accountable on these issues and these issues alone. This is an opening for Republicans.
SCARBOROUGH: Mika, I think that’s a great point that you’re making. I remember so many times when I was with a small group of rebels going after Newt Gingrich; when we thought he was doing things that were hurting the Republican Party. Openly, publicly, some of the other Republican leaders would attack us, but behind the scenes we would talk to them and they would say keep going, you’re providing a very valuable output, not only for us, but the entire Republican Party. And Mika, you’re right. That’s what Mitt Romney is doing. What Mitt Romney is doing may not be good for Donald Trump, but it is great for Republicans in the Senate.
BRZEZINSKI: If you like your party and you want it back. So then we’ll go to Susan on this. I don’t know if there’s an answer to this question. But in light of people like Mitt Romney, is there a chance in this, this New Congress, for Pelosi and Mitch McConnell to strike a deal?
SUSAN DEL PERCIO: There is potential and there’s just one thing I’d like to add to what you said, Mika, and you mentioned it yesterday as well is that Mitt Romney was talking about service to country. He put…
DEL PERCIO: …he’s putting country before self. He didn’t need to run for Senate. He could have gone out as the, as the Republican nominee for President. But he believes in service and making our country better. And I think at this point, we’re also going to have to look to him and maybe he’ll have to make some tough votes and maybe that’s the best way he can actually show what he’s standing up for. As far as…
DEL PERCIO: …deals being made, there is a potential because I think that Mitch McConnell is going to start to get pretty nervous with what the President is doing as far as 2020 goes. The Senate map is not in favor of Republicans like it was last year. It is very hard for Republicans going into 2020. There may be primaries, but there’s going to be a lot of challenges. And I think Mitch McConnell is also going to bear the wrath of this President when he runs out of people to blame. And that is going to be very difficult for him to keep any type of leadership. So perhaps cutting a deal with the Speaker and putting it back on the President is going to be his best recourse.
SCARBOROUGH: Maybe his best recourse and, Mika, Susan is completely right. You look at Susan Collins in Maine…
SCARBOROUGH: You look at Cory Gardner in Colorado, you look at Chairman Burr in North Carolina, who has been doing a wonderful job. But all of those…those three and many more Republicans who are up in 2020, they feel the sting of Donald Trump’s attacks, personal attacks against immigrants, against the very people…
SCARBOROUGH: …that Mitt Romney was defending yesterday. Let me tell you something. When General Mattis, when Stanley McChrystal, when Admiral McRaven are all attacked, that doesn’t help Susan Collins in Maine, that doesn’t help Chairman Burr in North Carolina, that doesn’t help Cory Gardner in Colorado. Those are swing states. And over the next few years, I think you’re going to be very fascinated to see what Republicans start sounding more and more like Mitt Romney as we move closer and closer to 2020.