As Donald Trump’s impeachment becomes even more likely, the president and his allies have been even more eager than usual to concoct an alternate reality they expect the public to take seriously. In this version of reality, adjacent to our own, the intelligence community’s whistleblower has been completely discredited.
That’s plainly false, of course, as the White House and its cohorts know, though the truth has been deemed secondary. It’s why Trump is also throwing around all kinds of related nonsense about Joe Biden, Adam Schiff, and what the president sees as Russia’s purported innocence in its 2016 attack on our elections.
Trump and his team seem to realize a reality-based approach wouldn’t work, and the result is an avalanche of claims that crumble under scrutiny.
But perhaps no claim is more important than Team Trump’s assertions about Trump’s July phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Consider this exchange between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert on Friday:
Q: Two days ago, Wednesday, PBS did an interview with you, and you said the phone call was “wholly appropriate” in your mind. Why do you think it’s appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent?
POMPEO: Well, that’s not what he did.
Q: What did he do, in your mind?
POMPEO: He was having a conversation with the new president of Ukraine to talk about our relationship broadly and how we were going to move forward together…. I think the only ones who think Zelensky was pressured are a handful of folks in the media and a bunch of folks on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party, who are trying to take down this President.
A couple of days earlier, a reporter asked Vice President Mike Pence, “The president himself has said he wants a foreign country to investigate his rival. Is that okay with you?” Pence replied, “I don’t believe that’s the case.”
Trump, meanwhile, has spent a ridiculous amount of time describing his call with Zelensky as “perfect” and completely uncontroversial.
In other words, we’re not supposed to have noticed the official White House call summary. Or the “I would like you to do us a favor, though” rhetoric. Or the context. Or the president standing on the White House South Lawn and publicly encouraging foreign countries to go after one of his rivals.
All of these developments, according to the president and his cohorts, simply did not occur, at least not in the way reality suggests.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes joked two weeks ago, “They are all, collectively, going to try to Jedi Mind Trick their way out of this.” That’s even more true now than it was at the time.