Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Republicans have agreed on a new line of attack against the Democrats -- and we know they've agreed because a former Republican operative tells us so.

Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton are delivering the message.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blamed the Democrats’ push to impeach President Trump in January for distracting the Trump administration from the threat posed by the coronavirus.

“It came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” McConnell said in an interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”

... Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who also appeared on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” Tuesday, said he started studying the potential impact of the virus in late January.

“The first time I recall talking about the China virus in the media was on your show, probably late in January, and I had started studying the problem in mid-January,” he said.

“I have to tell you that in mid-January and late-January, unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress, was consumed with another matter — you may recall the partisan impeachment of the president,” Cotton added.
But if the threat of the coronavirus "came up while [members of Congress] were tied down in the impeachment trial," and if Cotton "started studying the problem in mid-January," you'd think Republicans might have mentioned the virus at least once during the Senate trial -- after all, the sum total of their defense of the president was "This is an evil thing Democrats are doing and it's bad for America." Every chance they could, they enumerated the many reasons why impeachment and the impeachers were terrible Americans. So surely you'd have expected them to blame Democrats at least once for distracting us from this potential global health crisis, which, as McConnell and Cotton noted, they were well aware of.

Did they? No. This page at JustSecurity.org links to transcripts of every day of the Senate impeachment trial, from January 16 to February 5. By "transcripts" I mean the Congressional Record for each day, in searchable PDF form.

I've searched those PDFs and the word "covid" doesn't appear on any day. (UPDATE: A commenter notes that "covid" wouldn't have appeared because the term "covid-19" wasn't coined until February 11, after the impeachment trial.) References to the "virus" or "coronavirus" appear just twice: On January 23, when McConnell says,
Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. Chief Justice, if I may, one brief announcement: In the morning, there will be a
coronavirus briefing for all Members at 10:30. Senator ALEXANDER and Senator MURRAY are involved in that. The location will be emailed to your office.
and on February 4, not in the trial but in the president's State of the Union address, when he said, perfunctorily:
Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the Coronavirus outbreak in China. My Administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard citizens from this threat.
So Republicans knew the threat, but never cited it as a reason impeachment was a terrible thing -- which is strange because they made every other conceivable argument for why impeachment was a terrible thing.

And what is it that the president was prevented from doing by impeachment? It's not as if he had to manage a trial in which there was nail-biting suspense as to the outcome. The fix was in -- he was going to be acquitted in the Senate, and everyone knew it. His defense was on autopilot. So how much time out of his day did impeachment need to take?

This is accurate:

Byron York echoes the line of the day in this National Review post. He writes:
On January 21, the United States confirmed its first case of the coronavirus. The nation’s political and media elite obsessed over Mitch McConnell’s just-announced resolution governing the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

On January 23, China locked down the city of Wuhan. Cable news in America lit up with praise for the epic, nay historic, performance by House impeachment manager Adam Schiff in the trial’s opening arguments.
Right -- and what happened in between those two days? Here's what happened: a milestone for our beleaguered, distracted, hard-working president.

President Donald Trump set a presidential record for activity on his favorite social media platform Wednesday, tweeting and retweeting at length about the Senate impeachment trial, the Democrats who want to replace him and much, much more.

By 4:25 p.m. ET, Trump had barreled through his previous record of 123 Twitter postings in a day that he set a little over a month ago, according to Factba.se, a service that compiles and analyzes data on Trump’s presidency.
He tweeted 132 times that day.

And what was happening in the coronavirus crisis on January 22? Here's a sampling of headlines:
Hong Kong has first "highly suspicious" coronavirus case

Scientists estimate more than 4,000 coronavirus cases in Wuhan city alone

Death toll in China rises to 17

One person under observation in Mexico

Face masks are made mandatory in Wuhan

Decision from WHO emergency meeting expected soon

Five more Chinese provinces report new cases

CDC testing several people in US for possible Wuhan virus

US officials in Washington state are monitoring the health of a US patient's "close contacts"
Was Trump distracted from all this? Yes -- but by Twitter, not by impeachment.

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