While congressional Democrats did their best to make it sound like they were sad about the formalization of the impeachment inquiry, MSNBC’s Jason Johnson had a different take. Appearing on Thursday’s Deadline: White House, Johnson declared “I may be in the minority here. I’m not somber today. I’m thrilled.”
Just hours after the House of Representatives voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, a giddy Johnson proclaimed: “Oh my gosh, democracy is vaguely working for once. You have people who are taking the responsibility and oversight seriously for once. I am so glad this happened.”
Echoing talking points recited by Rachel Maddow last month, Johnson delivered a message to Republicans: “I hope they realize that 50 years from now, when our kids...are reading about this, they want to be the person who was on the right side of history.”
In other words, impeaching Trump would put the GOP “on the right side of history.” After Johnson accused Trump of trying to “bribe members of the Senate” into voting for his acquittal, host Nicolle Wallace expressed dismay that more on the right haven’t abandoned Trump and, in other words, turned out like her (a hardened liberal): “It’s so amazing…that we don’t have people in Congress who can model behavior that we’d want a child being bullied to model.”
Not surprisingly, Real Clear Politics’s A.B. Stoddard had the most rational analysis, pointing out that Democrats “wouldn’t vote to impeach a President who lied under oath. And Bill Clinton lied under oath and you can’t do that. You and I can’t do that and you can’t do that as President.”
But sadly, Stoddard eventually pivoted to acting as a Democratic strategist: “Democrats have to make the point… this is about the system; whether or not we’re going to break it forever and it’s also about next year’s election. That he is meddling in next year’s election, that’s what this whole Ukraine story is about.”
New York Times reporter Nick Confessore expressed glee that “the first line of his obit forever is going to read that he was impeached.” Confessore also tried to advance the narrative that more congressional Republicans are open to the idea of impeachment, claiming that “I think there’s more open-mindedness and less herd behavior and more principle as you were saying on the Hill than some people are worried.”
Later, Wallace grimaced when Never Trumper Steve Schmidt raised the possibility of President Trump’s “impeachment, acquittal, and re-election.” Wallace talked about how she was terrified of Trump’s “impeachment, conviction, (and) re-election as a private citizen,” claiming “now, I’m going to have nightmares.”
Schmidt wrapped up by warning that if Congress says it’s “okay” for the President to “ask a foreign head of state to use the powers of that government to investigate an American citizen,” then “the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, the freedoms that we enjoy then all become obsolete.”
In other words, failure to remove Trump from office will pave the road to tyranny. Talk about hyperbole.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s Deadline: White House is below. Click “expand” to read more.
MSNBC’s Deadline: White House
04:48 p.m. Eastern
NICOLLE WALLACE: Jason Johnson, we were talking in the last block about this lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office. It would seem that he’s now at the center of questions like “what did he know and when did he know it?”
JASON JOHNSON: Right. It…it’s one thing to sort of edit a transcript or change a trans…you know, use some whiteout, delete, but it’s something else to stuff it in your mouth, run downstairs and lock it in the server and…and that’s what’s happening here. But…but I…I think this speaks to the…this larger discussion we’ve been having today; which is what I’ve wanted to say. I may be in the minority here. I’m not somber today. I’m thrilled. I am thrilled. Oh, my gosh, democracy is vaguely working for once.
JOHNSON: You have people who are taking the responsibility and oversight seriously for once. I am so glad this happened; as someone who doubted and questioned Nancy Pelosi and what she was doing all along, it appears as though now she is taking it responsibly fully. And as what Steve said before, whatever Republicans are thinking and when they have to go to bed at night and when they go home and talk to their constituents, I hope they realize that historically speaking, 50 years from now when…when our kids and everything else like that are reading about this, they want to be the person who was on the right side of history. They want to be the person who was part of that gang of five, of eight or ten people who said, “you know what, whether or not this guy stays in office or not, I stood up and said that this behavior is inappropriate.” And I think there is a chance of it just for this reason only. It’s one thing to try and get people to be angry about something that already happened; which is 2016. But this is about 2020. We…we’ve already heard reports that the President is already trying to muscle people, basically bribe members of the Senate and say I will squeeze your money off if you don’t vote to keep me in office in 2020. And I think people worried about their future might be inclined to make different decisions.
WALLACE: It’s so amazing that…that we don’t have people in Congress who can model behavior that we’d want a child being bullied to model.
AB STODDARD: Yeah. It’s…this is a…this is tough. A Republican said to me last week, you know, Democrats raised the bar for impeachment. They wouldn’t vote to impeach a President who lied under oath. And Bill Clinton lied under oath and you can’t do that. You and I can’t do that and you can’t do that as President. And that’s a very good point. They are not making it out, you know, with their constituents and on, you know, Fox, but this…this is a…this is…in their messaging, Democrats have to make the point, as Jason pointed out, and…and Steve’s point, this is about the system; whether or not we’re going to break it forever and it’s also about next year’s election. That he is meddling in next year’s election, that’s what this whole Ukraine story is about. And if he is not stopped, he will continue to do more. First, it was obstruction of justice in the Mueller case. A thousand federal prosecutors felt that the evidence rose to the threshold for any of us to be indicted. Now, it’s about meddling in next year’s election; asking country after country. And that’s really the messaging that they have to stick to so that it can’t go back to what happened.
NICK CONFESSORE: This is the first day of the rest of President Trump’s life. With this vote, I think it’s almost a certainty that he becomes the third American President to be impeached. And when that happens, if that happens, look, I’m…I’m a reporter. I think about how the first line of his obit forever is going to read that he was impeached. He knows that…
WALLACE: So does he.
CONFESSORE: He knows…
WALLACE: I mean…
WALLACE: I mean look…
CONFESSORE: And I think…
WALLACE: …so does he.
CONFESSORE: …and I think he is terrified of it. And look a few months ago, just a few months ago, you could not find a Republican on the Hill who would even touch the idea of an inquiry. That’s not true anymore. There are members who are obviously open to impeaching him in the Senate and in the House on the GOP side. That should terrify him and I think it does. This is not static. It is not…
CONFESSORE: …written in stone that it will not happen. I think there’s more open-mindedness and less herd behavior and more principle as you were saying on the Hill than some people are worried.
WALLACE: Look, this idea that it isn’t static feels like a really important point and one to just hit pause on. I mean, the idea that under Mueller, public opinion never moved, I think is tied to how opaque that was and how successful the Rudy/Trump fog smear, really a character assassination campaign against Mueller and his, you know, “17 angry Democrats” that…that weren’t but…but forget that. I mean, Trump today is…is…as…as Jason alluded to, there’s this story and…and Dana Bash said on CNN earlier today in comments that froze me in my tracks. He’s…he’s basically bribing Republican Senators with campaign money to not support his conviction in the Senate. He’s got nine of them we just learned down at the White House now.
STEVE SCHMIDT: Absolutely. He’s in a…he’s in a…he’s in a fight for his political life. He understands that. What…what…what this will be, though, is a…is a test. And each generation of Americans has met the test when the country’s been threatened. When the oath is taken, it…the member, the military officer promises to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Abraham Lincoln worried that the country would unwind through a threat from the inside; not from an external threat. And so…so here we are. Right? At this…at this moment. And as this process plays out, a factual process, when we get to the heart and we’ll know everything, I believe, about what he did. It’s a…it’s…it’s going to meet the threshold for high crimes and misdemeanors as articulated in the Constitution. Or it will not. But if it does, and I think the American people who like generally living in a democracy get, that the conduct that we’ve read about so far is over that line. You can’t do that. I mean, if he is…
WALLACE: I guess I…can I just switch back a little bit? I mean, grabbing women in the (bleep) is over that line, being indicted…being an unindicted co-conspirator in the Southern District New York in an illegal campaign finance scheme is over the line, being named for 150 contacts with Russia is over the line and ten acts of criminal obstruction of justice are over the line. What feels different to you that you have all this sort of sense of history and optimism?
SCHMIDT: I…I don’t know that I have optimism. I’ll…I’ll tell you what I…what …what terrifies me is impeachment, acquittal, and re-election.
WALLACE: You know what terrifies me? Impeachment, conviction, re-election as a private citizen. Now, I’m going to have nightmares.
SCHMIDT: It’s…no, but…but what’s different, all of those are terrible things, right? The conduct is abhorrent. Right? I…and I’ve, I’ve talked a lot about it. The question here is an American President abusing his power to ask a foreign head of state to use the powers of that government to investigate an American citizen, a political opponent. And if the Congress says that’s okay, there is no break on a President…
SCHMIDT: …from using the IRS, using investigatory powers of law enforcement agencies to target people. The freedom of speech, freedom of worship, the freedoms that we enjoy then all become obsolete because if you can’t speak freely without being investigated, you don’t live in a free country anymore.
WALLACE: You know…
SCHMIDT: That’s what’s at stake in this.
WALLACE: I mean, look, I was thinking about The New York Times. You have coverage on all these fronts; using the IRS to shield his taxes.
WALLACE: Prosecuting…you know, you guys have been covering the Barr investigation into the origins of the Russia…I mean, he’s doing all those things already.
CONFESSORE: He is but, you know, you know, think about that litany of things you were saying in the beginning here. He’s done this. He’s done this. His “Access Hollywood” tape.
WALLACE: Babies in cages. Right. Right.
CONFESSORE: Well, he’s never actually been a popular President. He wasn’t a popular candidate. He was running against Hilary Clinton. He’s not going to have that chance again.
CONFESSORE: And we, I think people in the press, including me sometimes, are enamored with the idea of his base but he’s not well-liked and there is now, if you look at the polling, an obvious sour taste over his presidency in the mouths of many voters; including many who voted for him and gave him a chance because they didn’t like her. That’s going to be different this time.
WALLACE: That’s right. All right, we are going to sneak in our last break. We’ll be right back.