Addressing reporters this morning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Donald Trump expressed delight over the state of his impeachment trial. Explaining why he was so pleased, the president said, "Honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material."
It didn't take long before Democrats pounced. Here, for example, was Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) -- a House impeachment manager and a former police chief -- responding to Trump's off-the-cuff comment:
"The second article of impeachment was for obstruction of Congress: covering up witnesses and documents from the American people. This morning the President not only confessed to it, he bragged about it."
Harvard Law School's Lawrence Tribe was thinking along the same lines, concluding that the president was effectively "confessing" to "stonewalling" Congress. Tribe encouraged Trump to "try reading" the second article of impeachment.
I actually heard the quote a little differently. In context, it seems to me that the president wasn't referring to documents the White House has withheld from investigators -- though that's certainly an important problem and a radical departure from how the Clinton White House operated during its impeachment crisis -- but rather, he seemed to be referring to the general strength of his side's argument.
In other words, just as I might argue that Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock are the best stand-up comedians because they have "the material" their contemporaries lack, I think Trump was trying to say his lawyers are doing well in the impeachment trial because they have "the material" their opponents lack. It's not about secret documents, per se; it's about having the facts on one's side.
The trouble, of course, is that even if that was the point the Republican hoped to convey, he's completely wrong about that, too.
One need only to have watched yesterday's Senate proceedings to realize that Trump's legal defense team didn't have "the material" to present a coherent defense at all. Indeed, as we discussed this morning, the president's attorneys barely tried to make legal arguments, choosing instead to present a series of conspiracy theories, falsehoods, and an airing of grievances that didn't go anywhere.
NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner said overnight, "If you can't even rise to the challenge of trying to defend your client, it becomes painfully obvious that the emperor has no defense."
Even Fox News' Chris Wallace conceded on the air, "I don't know why you wouldn't take the time and every second you have to make an argument on behalf of the president. If I were the president watching this, I would not be especially pleased."
If members of Team Trump had the material, why did they fail so spectacularly?