As the next phase of the congressional impeachment inquiry, including public hearings, advances on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump has been reduced to publishing arguments like these on Twitter:
“Shifty Adam Schiff will only release doctored transcripts…. Republicans should put out their own transcripts!”
The president first started pursuing this line last week, arguing that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) “will change the transcripts” from the impeachment proceedings ahead of their release. Trump kept this going a day later, suggesting Schiff shouldn’t be “allowed” to release transcripts, in part because the Californian “will change the words” and “manipulate” the materials.
Trump added that he considers Schiff a “freak” – a word he hasn’t previously tweeted since taking office.
In the days that followed, transcripts from the impeachment proceedings were, in fact, released to the public with minimal redactions.
Literally no one – no Republicans, no Democrats, no witnesses, no attorneys – has disputed the accuracy of the transcripts. In fact, the witnesses had an opportunity to review the transcripts for accuracy before their release, and there were no objections.
Or put another way, Trump’s pre-emptive conspiracy theory was wrong, discredited by reality. Confronted with these facts, the president decided to … repeat the ridiculous line.
I especially enjoyed the “Republicans should put out their own transcripts” addendum, as if GOP lawmakers (a) have access to materials from an alternative reality; and (b) have reason to object to the real documents.
They don’t. Trump has reached the point at which he’s peddling strange claims that even House Republicans aren’t willing to endorse.
And why is it, exactly, that the president has gone to such embarrassing lengths? Part of this is no doubt born of panic. White House officials have also likely told Trump that the transcripts paint a rather brutal picture for the president.
But it’s also likely that Trump realizes this is a dynamic he’s struggling to control. In July 2018, the Republican famously told a group of supporters, “Just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
The implication at the time was that the president expected his base to look to him as the authority on truth, not what people might see and read.
He’s still at it.