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How Do Donald Trump’s Impeachment Defenses Keep Getting Worse?

Donald Trump smirks and holds his ear.

For months, the arguments Donald Trump and his supporters have chosen to use as their defense against impeachment have repeatedly fallen apart right in front of us. That doesn’t mean they’ve stopped using those arguments, though, and in fact, they’ve even found brand new ones that somehow keep getting worse.

Here’s what Republicans are peddling now:

Argument #1: Quid pro so what?

Yes, after months of denying that Trump’s request for a “favor” from Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky–an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden–was a direct quid pro quo for the release of military aid and a White House meeting, they’ve now moved onto say it doesn’t matter if it was. Other witnesses have testified that the quid pro quo was obvious but now that we know John Bolton wrote about it in his forthcoming memoir, Trump, his lawyers, and Senate Republicans have totally abandoned their original argument.

That’s how we go from Lindsey Graham calling the idea of a quid pro quo “very disturbing” in October to Ted Cruz telling Fox News this week that “quid pro quo doesn’t matter.”

Argument #2: Why do we need impeachment witnesses when we’ve already made up our minds?

Even with John Bolton’s new information, Republican Senators are saying they don’t want to hear from him or other witnesses because they don’t believe he’d be able to change their minds, which are already made up in favor in acquittal. I guess they forgot about that whole oath of impartiality they all took at the start of the trial.

“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office,” said Lindsey Graham this week.

Pat Toomey said he was “very, very skeptical” that anyone could change his mind “about how I ought to vote on the final question.”

Senators Cory Gardner, Ted Cruz, Roy Blunt, and more have also argued against witnesses on the grounds that they’re irrelevant to the outcome.

Argument #3: Anything Trump did was in the service of reelection, which somehow makes it okay.

Legal scholar/celebrity attorney/terrible person Alan Dershowitz argued this week that “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest.” Therefore, he said from the Senate floor, “if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Basically, giving politicians the benefit of the doubt that they want to get reelected to serve the “public interest” and not their own corrupt sense of ambition (already a super generous premise), then nothing they do can be impeachable or even bad, really, because it’s all for the greater good.

That is the stupidest, most dangerous argument yet.

Dershowitz walked back his statements today on Twitter, not by admitting he was over the line, but by claiming the press misrepresented his words.

Except they didn’t.

During his presidential campaign, Trump famously said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He was talking about the loyalty of his voting base but he might as well have also been talking about the loyalty of Congressional Republicans, who believe in nothing but amassing and maintaining their own power.

(image: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.