January 24, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

A GOP Ensnared in ‘the Russian Story’

There is no more truth left in the party.

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On the third day of the Senate impeachment trial, the House Democrats connected the dots I have been longing for them to connect. House Manager Sylvia Garcia, of Texas, said the Trump-Ukraine scandal was about smearing a political opponent. More importantly, she said Donald Trump had been repeating a Kremlin lie—that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that attacked the United States in 2016. She went further to say he is aiding and abetting our geopolitical adversary. Trump is on Vladimir Putin’s side.

For anyone tuning in the first time, this probably seems extraordinary. You know, like, crazy! Well, that’s because it is. The president is involved in an international criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people of their right to consent to a president’s rule and weaken Russia’s old enemy from the inside out. It’s just unbelievable! Yet everything we know about the Trump-Ukraine scandal, underscored by every witness testifying during impeachment hearings, points steadily in the Kremlin’s direction.

The Senate Republicans cannot believe the Democrats, because they have lost faith.

Garcia and the others explained in lengthy detail why allegations against Joe Biden are not only false on the facts but malign in intent. Biden, as vice president, did put pressure on Ukraine’s prosecutor general but not because Viktor Shokin was being too hard investigating a gas company Hunter Biden worked for. Biden was putting pressure on Shokin because he was being too soft. Biden did not threaten to suspend a billion-dollar loan to Ukraine in order to get Shokin off Burisma’s back. He made the threat in order to get Shokin on Burisma’s back. Shokin was later fired for corruption.

Garcia and the others also explained in lengthy detail why the president keeps repeating the same conspiracy theory about the Ukrainians, not the Russians, violating American sovereignty in 2016. The reason, they said, is because it works for the Russians, who want their enemies blamed for their crimes, and it works for Trump, who fears deeply being seen as a weak and illegitimate president. The conspiracy theory, as I have said before, makes Trump the original victim and the ultimate hero. By extorting Ukraine, he helped himself. By extorting Ukraine, he helped Russia.

“Our own president is helping our adversary,” Garcia said.

The facts are on the Democrats’ side. What do the Republicans have?

Lies. There’s no truth left.

US Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, said on Twitter Thursday: “On this day in 2018, Joe Biden bragged that he would withhold $1 billion in foreign aid to Ukraine if they didn’t fire the prosecutor investigating his son and Burisma. If this is true, under the House Democrats’ logic, wouldn’t it be impeachable conduct?”

It’s not true. The House managers explained that. Blackburn is lying.

US Senator Josh Hawley, of Missouri, said on Twitter Thursday: “WOW, House managers make extended argument that Hunter Biden’s work w/ Burisma entirely appropriate & no conflict of interest w/ Joe Biden getting rid of prosecutor that had jurisdiction over Burisma. If we call witnesses, gonna need to hear from both Bidens.”

The House managers made no such defense. Hawley is lying.

US Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, told the Newshour’s Judy Woodruff Thursday “that so far most of what he’s heard is a defense of Joe Biden who Scott believes is ‘indefensible.’ Scott also said Democrats should have fought for documents in the court rather than pushing for a trial,” according to Yamiche Alcindor.

Again, the House managers made no such defense. Scott is lying.

But this kind of misrepresentation of reality isn’t benign. It is vicious. It is malign. It isn’t meant only to deceive. It is designed to harm—to injure—the republic. There are no other options for them. They have become fully ensnared in “the Russian story.”

On the second day of the impeachment trial, lead House manager Adam Schiff said:

The Russian storyline, the Russian narrative, the Russian propaganda, the Russian view they would like people around the world to believe is that every country is just the same, just the same corrupt system. There’s no difference.

It’s not a competition between autocracy and democracy. No, it’s just between autocrats and hypocrites. They make no bones about their loss of democracy. They just want the rest of the world to believe you can’t find it anywhere.

Why take to the streets in Moscow to demand something better if there’s nothing better anywhere else? That’s the Russian story.

The Republicans have more than lies on their side. They have fear. CBS News reported a Trump surrogate warned if they vote against him, “your head will be on a pike.”

They have nihilism, too.

They cannot believe the Democrats are right on the facts. They cannot believe the Democrats have the Constitution and morality on their side. The Republicans cannot trust their own eyes. They cannot believe the Democrats are acting in good faith.

They cannot believe, because they have no faith.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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