Catchphrases have always defined Donald Trump’s presidency. In the same way that “no collusion, no obstruction” went hand in hand with the Mueller report, Democrats have managed to turn “quid pro quo” into the tagline for the current impeachment inquiry. It’s perhaps the first time since Trump entered office that Democrats have managed to wrangle the first word on a presidential scandal—which puts them in a better position than ever to have the final word, too.
“There’s a big problem for all of us in trying to push back” against impeachment: the lack of a clear message from the White House, one Senate Republican aide told us, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid. “We don’t have those answers. We don’t work in the State Department, White House, or National Security Council. There’s no way we can answer those questions without [White House officials] sending out information that helps our cause. And they’re just incapable of doing that.”
Caught in unfamiliar terrain, the White House appears to be lost in this pivotal moment. And Republicans, bereft of guidance, have found themselves either mangling their attempts to defend the president or, as a growing number appear to be, unwilling to even try.