Not surprisingly, the panel on Friday’s edition of Real Time weighed in on the impeachment inquiry that has sucked up all of the oxygen on Capitol Hill. Host Bill Maher suggested that Republicans’ behavior throughout the impeachment inquiry indicates that they “don’t believe in democracy anymore.” In addition, the panel took aim at Fox News; slamming the primetime hosts as “a**-lickers” and accusing the network of spinning out “a totally different version of reality.”
At the beginning of the panel discussion, Maher read aloud a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying “the way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority; with me as Majority Leader.” According to Maher, “it sounds like he’s saying it doesn’t really matter what Donald Trump did or does, I will stop it.” Maher proceeded to ask “do Republicans still believe in democracy?”
After the audience erupted into applause, Maher answered his own question by citing Trump allies’ refusals to comply with subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry as evidence that Republicans “don’t believe in democracy anymore.” One of the panelists, MSNBC National Affairs Analyst John Heilemann, pulled an Adam Schiff and grossly misrepresented the phone call President Trump had with the Ukrainian President; claiming President Trump said this:
I know you guys are in a hot war with Russia and I know you need this military assistance. Happy to give it to you, but you’ve got to do me a favor first. You got to work with my crooked attorney and his friends, Liev and Igor, and you got to dig up some dirt on my principal political opponent, and then I’ll give you the money.
Heilemann contended that the transcript of the conversation “proved he’s completely guilty” before declaring “if that is not an impeachable offense, give it the f*** up. There is no impeachment...If you can’t impeach the President for this, we should get rid of impeachment out of the Constitution because this is…what the impeachment clause was written for.”
As the panel discussion came to a close, Maher and the panel began taking shots at one of liberals’ favorite targets: Fox News. Maher described the “primetime people” on the network as “ass-lickers,” a phrase also used by Heilemann.
Heilemann recycled anti-Fox News talking points from his colleague Chuck Todd, claiming that the reason that “four in ten Republicans think that Trump did not mention Biden in the Ukraine call” is “because they’re watching Fox News, and they’re watching those ass-lickers you’re talking about. And they’re hearing a totally different version of reality that’s spun out every single night on that network.” It looks like Heilemann, Maher, and Todd see “reality” as a synonym for “anti-Trump” since that adjective describes their coverage of this administration to a T.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of Real Time With Bill Maher is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Real Time With Bill Maher
BILL MAHER: So, Mitch McConnell, on social media ad, he said “The way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority, with me as Majority Leader.” It sounds like he’s saying it doesn’t really matter what Donald Trump did or does, I will stop it. My first question is, do Republicans still believe in democracy?
SHAWNA THOMAS: I would say they would say they do. But impeachment can’t really stop with Senator McConnell. Impeachment is a House of Representatives process, and the thing is, it’s Nancy Pelosi in charge of that process and I think, we all sort of know that it’s pretty obvious they’re moving towards impeachment. Now, when it comes to actually removing him from office.
MAHER: But I, I mean the…actually, in the sense that, you know, when the Benghazi hearings were going on, I mean, Democrats thought they were very unfair. And they were being nasty. But they still showed up.
MAHER: Because when you get a subpoena, you showed up. Now, we’re in this phase of government by “make me.” I’m just not doing it. That, to me, seems like they don’t believe in democracy anymore.
BEN DOMENECH: Well…
DOMENECH: First off, you can…you can impeach for anything. You can impeach him because you don’t like his hair. The Republicans could have impeached Barack Obama for wearing a tan suit. You can’t…it’s a political decision, it’s not a legal decision and it’s up to the Congress to decide. The only question I have is why they aren’t doing it faster because from my perspective, the real risk that Democrats run at this point is having this process drift into an election year, in which they want to make this about a lot more than impeachment. They want to make it about the economy, they want to make it about health care, they want to make it about a bunch of other issues, but if we end up in a situation where Mitch McConnell is getting this on his desk in late December, early January, then it drifts into when all of these Senators, who are going to have to be part of these hearings…
MAHER: But wouldn’t…and you say it could?
DOMENECH: ...are out on the trail.
JOHN HEILEMANN: Here’s the thing you…it’s not right. You can’t impeach someone because of the color of their hair, because there’s no reasonable legal theory under which the color of someone’s hair could constitute a high crime and a misdemeanor.
DOMENECH: No, you can.
HEILEMANN: The President, the President…
DOMENECH: And in fact, the original impeachments were done…
DOMENECH: …primarily targeting judges who were drunk.
HEILEMANN: Yes. And…and the reality is that that’s never going to happen. What’s going to happen is the President of the United States, who called the head of a foreign country and said “I know you guys are in a hot war with Russia and I know you need this military assistance. Happy to give it to you, but you’ve got to do me a favor first. You got to work with my crooked attorney and his friends, Liev and Igor, and you got to dig up some dirt on my principal political opponent, and then I’ll give you the money.” And then he came and said, “here’s a transcript that’s perfect and it’s going to prove that I’m completely innocent,” when in fact, it proved he’s completely guilty. If that is not an impeachable offense, give it the fuck up. There is no impeachment.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HEILEMANN: If you can’t impeach the President…if you can’t impeach the President for this, if you can’t impeach the President for this, we should get rid of impeachment out of the Constitution because this is the…what the impeachment clause was written for.
MAHER: Well, it…yes?
THOMAS: Well, I also think, I mean, one, we’re not going to get rid of the impeachment clause in the Constitution, that would take far too much work in too many states. But two, from what Ben was saying, you know, when Senator McConnell…he can drag that out himself, actually. Like, I understand this argument about, you know, the House of Representatives shouldn’t wait that long, they should do this really quickly, but because it is a political thing, and I agree with you that it is a political act, impeachment is, it’s not exactly a legal act, they have to convince more than just this audience. They have to convince more Americans…
THOMAS: …that this is a legitimate thing that they are doing.
MAHER: But if it…
THOMAS: And that’s going to take a little…
MAHER: But if the shoe was on the…
THOMAS: …bit of time but they can do it.
MAHER: But come on, how many times would the…honestly, would the Republicans have impeached Hillary Clinton if she did…
HEILEMANN: For this?
MAHER: For anything.
HEILEMANN: For this?
MAHER: Say Hillary Clinton had a…an extramarital affair with the…a porn star named Daniel Stormy.
MAHER: And then paid, you know, campaign funds were used to…to make sure that that dirt didn’t come out. I mean, wouldn’t that be…
THOMAS: She was an unindicted coconspirator…
THOMAS: …in the case. Yeah.
MAHER: What if Chelsea Clinton met with five Russians in a hotel to get dirt and exchange polling data? I mean, I could go on. There’s 20 things that they would have impeached her for already.
HEILEMANN: In a heartbeat. And we’ve played this game throughout the administration; where we say “Trump does something, if Barack Obama had done that, what would have happened?”
HEILEMANN: He would have been impeached nine times over. I…I just think the notion that they’re not moving fast enough, this story broke three weeks ago. We…the whistle-blower came forward, right? They’re going to be done with this…Nancy Pelosi is going to have impeached the President of the United States by Christmas and if that happens…
THOMAS: I think they’d like to do it before Christmas, actually.
MAHER: How will this Syria story, where he abandoned the Kurds; how will that affect impeachment? I…I…I’m just wondering if it’s a one-two punch.
MAHER: People, if anyone…because the Republicans themselves do not like it. I mean, look, if you’re…if you’re a fan of Trump and you don’t know who the Kurds are, but if you have a…even a vague idea and you know they’ve been our allies, we fucked them over once under another Republican President, so they should get used to it. But now we did it again. They were the ones who…who were fighting ISIS with us, and for us. And he abandons them. And lets them be slaughtered again, which is going on right now. I just wonder what that does? Is that something that just says to some people, yeah, this other stuff was bad, and God, he just can’t be trusted with anything?
HEILEMANN: We saw, over the course of this week, you saw Lindsey Graham, a bunch of Republican Senators, Matt Drudge, Fox News, every Republican in the world, Erick Erickson, all coming out and attacking Trump for the first time ever in the course of his presidency, over this issue. You know, these are a bunch of people who have…especially in the Republicans in the Senate…who are looking down at this impeachment thing coming towards them, and saying “we are going to have a giant shit sandwich on our plate.” How big is that sandwich, how bad is that sandwich, how much shit is on that sandwich…they’re and they are pissed about it…
DOMENECH: But they’re also…
HEILEMANN: …and they’re, and they’re pissed about it and they all want to attack Trump for putting them in that position. But if they attack him for that, they’re on the side of the Democrats. So, instead, they have found this route, this thing, the abandonment of the Kurds, gives them a way to vent their frustrations at Trump and attack him, without being on the side of the Democrats. They can be on the sides of the Kurds, who, by the way, if you’re a Trump fan, you can’t even spell “Kurd.”
HEILEMANN: Here’s the political thing. Right? If you’re…if you were in the unlikely position of being Donald Trump’s main political advisor and you were looking at this situation unfolding, the first thing you would say to him is like “look, you’re going to get impeached in the House, but as long as you keep Republicans in the Senate, you’re fine. Don’t do anything to piss those guys off.”
HEILEMANN: So, what does Trump do? He gets on the phone with Erdogan, it’s Putin’s birthday, Erdogan asked him for something and he’s like “it’s Vladimir’s birthday and I got…I want to build a tower in Istanbul” and he’s like, not thinking about that that’s going to piss off every Republican in the Senate…
MAHER: You know what?
HEILEMANN: He just does the deal because…
HEILEMANN: …he’s all impulse.
MAHER: I used to think it was the TV that was our big enemy with Trump. I think it’s the phone.
HEILEMANN: It’s the phone!
MAHER: It’s both. He’s…
HEILEMANN: It’s the phone!
MAHER: He’s a 14-year-old teenage girl in the ‘60s. It’s the phone and the TV. He’s on his princess phone, talking to other, crusty old guys who, who are…
THOMAS: Twisting his hair.
MAHER: Yes, I mean, he…you know, he…today, he was talking about how “well, I think we made the deal with China.” How many times have we made the same deal with China? It’s like when we used to kill the number two in Al-Qaeda like every week.
MAHER: And I think, you know…he says it, the stock market goes up…but also, how come every zany thing he does seems to be exactly the thing that Putin would like? I mean, ISIS…I mean, the Kurds who fought ISIS…are our ally. And Turkey is our ally in NATO. Now, in the past, an American President would always say to our allies, I know you guys have differences, but we’re on the same team.
MAHER: He said about Fox News this week, “they’re not delivering for us.” Like they’re Grub Hub.
MAHER: Not delivering for us? That’s…again, the…the narcissism; to just say that out loud, to voice that interior monologue is an amazing sickness. I mean, I could see him thinking that, but you wouldn’t say that. Okay, so then he sends…
THOMAS: But, they’re working for him.…
MAHER: …but he sends his Attorney General…
MAHER: …the Attorney General of America…
MAHER: …to talk to Rupert Murdoch…
MAHER: …the head of Fox News, and the next day, Shepard Smith…
HEILEMANN: Smith is gone.
MAHER: The big critic on Fox News.
HEILEMANN: The only…the straight news man, let’s put it that way.
MAHER: They have a, they have a…
HEILEMANN: Straight news guy.
MAHER: They’re a little…
MAHER: …bit of a…
HEILEMANN: Shep’s calling it down the middle.
MAHER: A little bit of a civil war there at Fox News.
MAHER: There’s just people not the…the primetime people are ass-lickers, but guys like this…I mean.
DOMENECH: Oh, come on.
DOMENECH: No. I don’t think you…
MAHER: Sean Hannity?
DOMENECH: I don’t think…I don’t think that you can say that about Bret Baier. I think that’s very…
MAHER: I said Sean Hannity. I said the primetime people.
DOMENECH: I guess I think of primetime differently being from the east coast.
MAHER: Oh, okay.
THOMAS: I think we put Bret Baier in a different category.
MAHER: You’re right. Bret Baier, right. He’s on the other side of it a little bit. You know, that could be a real…
HEILEMANN: Straight…straight news guy.
HEILEMANN: Straight news guy. Like, the primetime people are, you know…
MAHER: But I…
MAHER: …I read this week that four in ten Republicans think that Trump did not mention Biden in the Ukraine call, even though Trump himself admits it.
THOMAS: Well, that the call was perfect.
MAHER: That’s why.
THOMAS: The call was perfect.
MAHER: Because the call was perfect.
HEILEMANN: Because they’re watching…because they’re watching Fox News, and they’re watching those ass-lickers you’re talking about. And they’re hearing a totally different version of reality that’s spun out every single night on that network. And the reality is the thing that I would be freaking out if I was Trump… it’s not just they’re not delivering for him, it was the Fox News poll this week that said 51 percent of the people in the country are now for not just for impeachment, but removal. That was a Fox News poll.
MAHER: Right. That’s what made him mad.
MAHER: That’s what made him mad.
HEILEMANN: And when the aforementioned…and when the aforementioned Bret Baier went on the air that night and put that thing up big, that was the thing that caused Trump to lose his shit. He was like, I, like “you’re not just not delivering for me, you’re shoving it in my face.”