Politics

Impeachment trial: John Barrasso downplays new evidence of Trump’s misconduct

A Senate Republican news conference on Friday served as an astounding example of how shameless Republicans have become in their efforts to defend President Trump.

The news conference was held shortly after ABC News reported it had obtained an April 2018 audio recording of Trump talking about firing Marie Yovanovitch, who was the US ambassador to Ukraine at the time. Her ouster was a key goal of the shadow diplomacy in Ukraine that culminated in Trump’s impeachment on charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress.

According to ABC News, the recording has Trump apparently telling Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s fixer, to “Get rid of her!”

“Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump can be heard saying on the tape, according to ABC.

The recording is a significant new piece of evidence in a few respects. First, it indicates that Trump has lied repeatedly about not knowing Parnas (though there’s already plenty of evidence of that). Second, it indicates that Trumpworld’s scheme to oust Yovanovitch and replace her with an ambassador of his liking was hatched far sooner than previously known. And third, it shows that the effort to get rid of Yovanovitch wasn’t just Giuliani going rogue; Trump was not only directly involved but perhaps ordered it.

In short, the tape is evidence that Trump’s misconduct and deceitfulness was perhaps worse than previously known — information you’d think would be of interest to the senators who are currently considering Trump’s fate.

But to hear Sen. John Barrasso tell it, news of the tape is a nothingburger.

“There will be new evidence every day. There will something new that comes out every day,” Barrasso said dismissively when asked about the tape during the news conference, his implication being that revelations about the president’s abuse of power are no big deal.

The remarkable thing, however, is that Barrasso has been one of the Republican senators laying the groundwork for a vote to acquit Trump by arguing that the Democratic impeachment managers have failed to produce new evidence of Trump’s guilt during the trial.

In fact, just hours earlier on Friday morning, Barrasso was on both CNN and Fox Business pushing that talking point.

“So I think today in the Senate is going to be Groundhog Day again — the same thing we heard yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that,” Barrasso said on Fox Business, adding on CNN: “In some ways it’s like Groundhog Day — about every hour and a half, they start over again.”

Those comments echo how Barrasso downplayed the trial on Wednesday, when he told reporters, “six hours of testimony so far today since I didn’t hear anything new, at all.” But now that new evidence has emerged, Barrasso is aggressively uninterested in learning about it.

Barrasso’s flip-flop reflects how fraudulent the Republican defenses of Trump have been as Democrats make their case against him. On Thursday, I detailed how more than half a dozen Senate Republicans (including Barrasso) have been publicly complaining about Democrats not presenting new evidence during the trial, even though their party-line votes to block Democrats from m gathering new evidence is the main culprit.

Other Republicans are throwing up smokescreens about Hunter Biden, flatly lying about what Democratic impeachment managers have said, or attacking witnesses who testified about Trump’s misconduct.

But Barrasso’s comments perhaps serve as the starkest illustration that Trump was onto something when he famously proclaimed, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Barrasso, for one, already seems to have arrived at a place where new evidence of impeachable abuses of power is something he’s willing to shrug off. Not only does he feel no shame about pushing new talking points in Trump’s defense that contradict ones he was using just hours earlier, but he also isn’t trying to hide that his mind is already made up — even as new evidence of Trump’s misconduct emerges.

“I don’t believe that there are any Democrats who need additional information to make a decision on how they are gonna vote, and I can’t imagine there are many Republicans [who need more information] either,” added Barrasso during the news conference, before he walked away from the microphone.


The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.




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