On impeachment, Republicans' incompetence does Trump no favors

Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.
Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.

Donald Trump took a few moments during a White House cabinet meeting this week to reflect on the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill. The president who initially said he wasn't watching the hearings apparently tuned in and was impressed with what he saw -- from some of the lawmakers.

"I just got to watch -- and the Republicans are absolutely killing it," Trump said. "They are doing so well."

As this phase of the impeachment process comes to an apparent end, it's worth pausing to appreciate the degree to which the president had this backwards. Indeed, Trump shouldn't be praising his Republican allies; he should be scolding them for their incompetence.

GOP lawmakers, for example, occasionally flaunted their ignorance about basic details they were supposed to have learned.

During the committee's public hearing on Thursday, though, a series of interlocutors from the Republican side demonstrated that they were not particularly familiar with the testimony that had already been given -- or, at least, that they were willing to present that past testimony in a way that changed its significance.

Republicans also pursued lines of inquiry that hurt their own side.

As any lawyer knows, you're not supposed to cross-examine a witness by asking questions you don't know the answer to. But that happened over and over again with Republicans at Thursday's impeachment hearing, and it had predictably ugly consequences for the GOP.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, at one point during yesterday's proceedings, questions from Republican staff attorney Steve Castor proved so damaging for the White House that Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) intervened, cut Cantor off, and redirected the conversation toward safer partisan ground.

Even the witnesses House Republicans specifically called to testify ended up providing information that made matters quite a bit worse for Donald Trump.

To be sure, the Republicans' incompetence as part of the impeachment inquiry was evident before the public-hearing phase of the process. It's been well documented, for example, that GOP lawmakers routinely failed to show up for some of the closed-door depositions. Transcripts also showed that when House Republican lawmakers did appear, they peddled conspiracy theories and pursued pointless lines of inquiry, to no one's benefit.

But it's one thing for members of Congress to be bungling and ineffectual in private; it's worse when their ineptitude is on national display before the cameras. If Trump took such things seriously, he should be furious with his allies' failure to properly prepare and mount a credible defense on his behalf.