(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 14, 2018, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders arrives at the press briefing at the White House in...
NICHOLAS KAMM

White House’s Sanders struggles to defend Trump on the substance, too

Updated

Among the striking developments in Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony last week was the Republicans’ reluctance to defend Donald Trump on the merits. GOP members of the House Oversight Committee were eager to tear down the president’s former fixer, but they avoided the issue of Trump’s innocence or guilt.

It didn’t look great for the White House. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said during the hearing, “The interesting thing is there hasn’t been one Republican who’s tried to defend the president on the substance. And I think that’s something that should be concerning to the White House. Why are no Republicans standing up and defending the president on the substance?”

An unnamed senior House Republican told the Washington Post soon after, “Truthfully, it is tough to ignore some of the gross immoral behavior by the president. The reason there was no defense is because there is no defense.”

It’s against this backdrop that the House Judiciary Committee has begun an expansive investigation into Trump World abuses, prompting White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to release a rather intemperate written statement last night:

“Today, Chairman Nadler opened up a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations already investigated by the Special Counsel and committees in both Chambers of Congress. Chairman Nadler and his fellow Democrats have embarked on this fishing expedition because they are terrified that their two-year false narrative of ‘Russia collusion’ is crumbling.

“Their intimidation and abuse of American citizens is shameful. Democrats are harassing the President to distract from their radical agenda of making America a socialist country, killing babies after they’re born, and pushing a ‘green new deal’ that would destroy jobs and bankrupt America.

“The American people deserve a Congress that works with the President to address serious issues like immigration, healthcare, and infrastructure. The Democrats are more interested in pathetic political games and catering to a radical, leftist base than on producing results for our citizens. The Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the President.”

Right off the bat, the statement is reminiscent of the Republicans’ response to Cohen. Note that there’s not much here in the way of a defense: Sanders makes a passing reference to the allegations against the president being “false,” but that’s literally one word in a 152-word statement.

As Vox’s Aaron Rupar noted, “Sanders, notably, isn’t defending Trump by arguing he did nothing wrong. Instead, she’s throwing up a lightning rod issue to distract from the larger point of accountability of the president.”

Indeed, she threw up several lightning-rod issues, all of which were based on errors of fact and judgment.

Sanders said the Judiciary Committee’s lines of inquiry are already being examined by Robert Mueller, but that’s not true. She said the investigation into the Russia scandal is “crumbling,” but that’s not true. She said Dems intend to create a “socialist country,” which is both wrong and silly. She said Dems support infanticide, which is needlessly incendiary and factually ridiculous.

And Sanders said Congress should be focused on the substance of governing, which is kind of hilarious given everything we’ve seen from this White House for the last 26 months, and overlooks the fact that meaningful oversight of the executive is substantive governing.