Lindsey Graham: Nothing John Bolton might say could possibly make this an impeachable offense so let's not call him

Hilarious. Let me remind you again of what he said to Axios in October about the possibility of a quid pro quo:

In an interview with “Axios on HBO,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Trump’s most vital allies on Capitol Hill, opened the door to changing his mind on impeachment if there turns out to be what he considers a quid pro quo…

“Sure. I mean … show me something that … is a crime,” Graham told Axios’ Jonathan Swan. “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”

If Graham thought evidence of a quid pro quo was no big deal, at least inasmuch as it wouldn’t warrant removing the president from office, that would have been the logical moment to say so.

We now have a report in the country’s most well-known newspaper that Trump’s own former NSA might be prepared to say under oath that the president told him personally that he wanted to withhold aid from Ukraine until they started investigating Biden. At a minimum, you would think Graham would want to follow up with that official to discover whether the “disturbing” scenario he presented in October had come to pass.

But he doesn’t. Go figure.

As shameless as Graham is, the sheer transparency of his shamelessness is almost a redeeming quality. He’ll try to suppress material evidence for Trump, sure, but he won’t make much of an effort to disguise his motives. He’s an honest toady.

At long last, he’s arrived at the defense of last resort: “Bad but not impeachable.” We don’t even need to know what Trump did or didn’t do by hearing from Bolton, says Graham, since there’s no high crime or misdemeanor regardless. But that’s not necessarily true. One key reason the GOP doesn’t want Bolton on the stand is because they don’t know what else he might accuse Trump of under oath. The Times reported two days ago that Bolton claims in his book that he feared Trump had intervened in a DOJ investigation of Chinese interests in return for China playing ball with him on matters of trade. If Bolton confirmed that under oath, or went further by accusing Trump of meddling in other Justice Department probes as “favors” to foreign powers, what would Senate Republicans do? It’d be a political nightmare. Graham wants to skip Bolton not because he knows Bolton has nothing impeachment-worthy to say but because he might.

Even if all Bolton had was the Ukraine quid pro quo material, Trump himself has made that material relevant by the nature of his defense. Andy McCarthy has been begging the president in op-eds for months to drop the “no quid pro quo” shtick and focus on the defense Graham’s now (very belatedly) making on his behalf, that there’s no high crime here even on the least favorable version of the facts. But Trump couldn’t resist. And because he couldn’t, McCarthy argues today, he may even have weakened his executive privilege claims to block Bolton’s testimony:

On the other hand, the president has chosen (foolishly in my view) to make the quid pro quo question an issue in the trial; and he and his surrogates have chosen (foolishly in my view) to mount public attacks on Bolton’s credibility. Furthermore, legal confidentiality privileges are shields, not swords. A litigant is not supposed to be able to inject an issue of fact into a case (e.g., there was no quid pro quo) and then deny the factfinder access to probative evidence on that same issue. If you want to rely on your privilege, you need to steer clear of the issue.

McCarthy proposes a short four-hour session with Bolton limited to the narrow question of what Trump told him about a quid pro quo, with no questions allowed for the sort of topic I mentioned above that might lead to further bombshell revelations — and with the option for Trump’s lawyers to avert Bolton’s testimony by *stipulating,* after months of denials, that there really was a quid pro quo. In his statement today Graham also nudges certain persons who shall remain nameless to avoid attacking Bolton’s credibility, since a factual dispute between them only strengthens the claim that the Senate should hear from Bolton to try to resolve that dispute. (I think Graham’s also nudging righties to go easy on Bolton because Bolton is a fellow superhawk and he doesn’t want the anger from Trump fans at Bolton to further poison their views of interventionism.) But those nameless persons can’t leave well enough alone:

Trump doesn’t care that challenging Bolton’s credibility increases the pressure to call him. He expects unthinking loyalty from Senate Republicans no matter how politically uncomfortable this gets for them or else there’ll be “heads on pikes,” to paraphrase the mystery man who uttered that phrase to CBS last week. And his expectation is rational. How can anyone read this Lindsey Graham statement and not come away convinced that Graham would say anything Trump wanted him to in the interest of wrapping this up? If he’s willing to go from “a quid pro quo would be disturbing” to “we don’t even need to hear firsthand testimony about a quid pro quo” in three months, he’ll say literally anything.

In fact, I gave him too much credit up above in claiming that he’s finally landed on the “bad but not impeachable” defense. There’s not one syllable in that statement that implies that what Trump did here was “bad,” for the simple reason that Graham knows Trump would go berserk if there was. So the defense of actual last resort, where we’re really going to end up, is “not impeachable and it doesn’t matter whether it was bad — or ‘disturbing’ — or not.” These people are broken.