Since late September, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has run through—by our count—at least eight different defenses, explanations, and justifications of President Trump’s repeated attempts to coerce foreign governments to interfere in American elections. That seems peculiar until you realize that this isn’t about getting the to the truth for Minority Leader McCarthy, it’s about trying to find a politically palatable explanation for President Trump’s inexplicable betrayal of his office.
Here’s a timeline of McCarthy’s multi-week effort to desperately find a story that fits his political agenda:
September 25: “Ukraine started it!” (They didn’t)
In what would become a recurring theme, after the White House voluntarily released a transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, McCarthy appeared to have not read it. He falsely claimed that Trump did not steer the conversation to Vice President Joe Biden, and that instead Zelensky did. The transcript is clear: Trump brought up Biden.
Still September 25: “Trump mentioned Biden once” (Nope, several times)
That same day, McCarthy parroted White House talking points and claimed that Trump referred to Biden only once. Again, the transcript is clear: Trump mentioned Biden several times.
The White House accidentally sent a list of GOP talking points to Democratic offices on Capitol Hill, which outlined three “myths” to point out: there was no quid pro quo, there was no promise made on the call and Trump referred to Biden “in only one exchange”, the document stated.
That message was quickly echoed by GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. McCarthy (R-Calif.), a top Trump ally, forcefully pushed back on reporters when they asked for his reaction to Trump mentioning Biden several times during the Ukraine call.
“No he didn’t. He mentioned it one time,” McCarthy said. The president mentioned Biden several times during the call.
September 28: “It’s the Deep State” (Deep sigh)
McCarthy then moved to conspiracy mongering. He claimed that the intelligence community inspector general changed the whistleblower rules in order to clear the way for the complaint against Trump.
That, too, was wrong. According to The Daily Beast:
From Donald Trump on down, prominent Republicans used part of their weekend to falsely accuse Trump’s hand-picked intelligence community inspector general (IC IG) of secretly changing the requirements for intelligence workers to submit whistleblower tips as part of a “deep state” plot to clear the way for the Aug. 12 complaint about Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine. […]
There’s a reason the form has allowed secondhand reports all along. The requirement for firsthand whistleblowing only is completely made up.
September 29: “There’s nothing to defend” (Well, there’s an impeachment inquiry)
Next, in a 60 Minutes interview that was top-tier cringe comedy, McCarthy again appeared to have not read the transcript, once more parroted White House talking points, and defended the President by saying Trump didn’t need to be defended. But most of all, McCarthy argued during his appearance that a President withholding military aid in an attempt to coerce a foreign government to investigate a political opponent was not an offense worthy of impeachment.
This exchange sums it up:
Scott Pelley: How do you expect the president’s defense to roll out going forward?
Kevin McCarthy: The defense of what?
Scott Pelley: Well, there’s an impeachment inquiry.
October 2: Schiff did it!
After his disastrous appearance on 60 Minutes failed to move the needle, McCarthy decided to change his approach, and misread a New York Times story to claim that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff “orchestrated” the Ukraine whistleblower.
Unsurprisingly, he was wrong and was quickly fact checked by one of the story’s authors.
October 3: Timing is everything
Still searching, McCarthy then called on House Speaker Pelosi to suspend the impeachment inquiry. Just one problem: His call came one hour after Trump—on live television—called for Ukraine and China to investigate Biden.
October 7: Words have no meaning
In an appearance Monday on Fox & Friends, McCarthy claimed that Trump did not call for China to investigate the Bidens, when he had said just days earlier that “China should start an investigations into the Bidens.” Sure…
And in the latest move, McCarthy backed up the White House’s refusal to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry. The White House demands—as McCarthy himself did days earlier—deliberately confuse the House and Senate roles in an impeachment inquiry and “lacked substantive legal arguments,” according to the Washington Post. More, according to Vox, the White House-McCarthy argument “makes little sense,” given the House’s Constitutionally-provided impeachment powers, making the letter “a challenge to the very concept of congressional oversight.”
But they do have this argument: