Overcoming the challenge of up-is-down, day-is-night politics

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) seems to prefer gaslighting, pretending that Trump did not do what we already know he did.
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Capitol BuildingJIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

There's a video making the rounds online this morning of Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) fielding a question from a reporter about Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal. This was the most notable part of the exchange:

REPORTER: So you're saying that it's okay for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival and withhold foreign aid to coerce him into doing so?

BRAUN: No, I'm not saying that's okay. I'm not saying that's appropriate. I'm saying that it DIDN'T HAPPEN.

For those familiar with the basic elements of the controversy, this seems like a deeply embarrassing incident for the freshman Republican senator. But part of the reason the video is making the rounds is that Braun himself is promoting it. The GOP Hoosier is proud of what he said and how he said it.

And that's unfortunate because Braun's assertions have no basis in reality. We know the president asked foreign leaders to investigate a domestic rival because he did so, on camera, while standing on the south lawn of the White House. We also know Trump withheld foreign aid in order to coerce a foreign leader because there's a mountain of documentary evidence -- not to mention a recent GAO report and a confession from the White House chief of staff -- that definitely proves that it happened.

But there was Mike Braun, a sitting U.S. senator, arguing otherwise. He could try to make the case that Trump's actions do not warrant his removal from office, but the GOP lawmaker prefers gaslighting, pretending that the president did not do what we already know he did.

My point is not to pick on the junior senator from Indiana, since he's hardly alone in his embrace of up-is-down, day-is-night politics.

But I once again find myself thinking anew about former Rep. Earl Landgrebe (R-Ind.), who refused to break with Richard Nixon, even at the height of Watergate, even after many other Republicans had come to terms with the fact that their corrupt president would have to resign in disgrace.

"Don't confuse me with the facts," Landgrebe said the day before Nixon's resignation. "I've got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I'm going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot."

The difference between 1974 and 2020 is simple: nearly a half-century ago, Landgrebe was one of a tiny minority. Now, Congress is filled with a few too many Earl Landgrebes.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog