House Democrats are fond of saying there is no dispute about the facts in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. They are right, in this sense: Republicans are dealing in facts, and Democrats in fantasy.
After two marathon question-and-answer sessions in the Senate on Wednesday and Thursday, it became clear that the Democrats’ case against President Trump is essentially based on five misquotes.
They are as follows:
1. Ukraine call misquotes. The investigation of the president began with a “whistleblower” complaint that claimed “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint was inaccurate, but the “whistleblower,” at least, admitted he had not heard the call first-hand. After Trump released the transcript, Democrats were deflated, but House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) had an answer: he just made up a better version, faking a mob movie dialogue as he opened the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
2. Fake Trump quote. After a series of inaccurate leaks from closed-door meetings in Schiff’s “basement,” Democrats finally voted to authorize the inquiry and hold public hearings. Once the Intelligence Committee was done, the proceedings moved to the Judiciary Committee, where Democrats presented a misquote of the president, complete with deceptively-edited video, claiming “I can do whatever I want” under Article II of the Constitution. Trump was referring to his right to fire executive officials, not his power in general. But the misquote became central to Democrats’ argument that Trump risked becoming a “dictator” if not removed.
3. Fake Dershowitz quote. Once the House impeached the president, and the Senate began its trial, the White House had its first chance to defend itself. Liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but is passionate about the Constitution, presented the argument that a president could only be impeached for “criminal-like” conduct, but not for legal conduct that happened to be in his own political self-interest. Democrats, from Schiff on down, twisted that into the claim that Dershowitz though a president “cannot be impeached for a “quid pro quo,” and it “doesn’t matter how corrupt that quid pro quo is.”
4. Fake Philbin quote. The president’s most effective lawyer in the impeachment trial has been Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin — who, naturally, became the next target. When he was asked if it would violate campaign finance law for the president to accept foreign information about a rival, Philbin answered, correctly, that it would not. Democrats then claimed the president and his lawyers thought it was “okay” to “seek or welcome foreign interference in our elections,” bolstering their case for Trump’s removal.
5. Fake Sondland/Mulvaney quotes. Finally, as moderate Republican Senators began to make up their minds about whether to vote for new witnesses, Schiff misled Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) about whether there was any evidence that Trump had directed anyone to withhold aid until Ukraine investigated the Bidens. He misquoted Sondland, claiming that Trump had told him, “Zelensky has to announce these investigations.” But Sondland told Schiff’s committee directly: “My testimony is I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of [investigations].” Schiff also claimed Mulvaney had told reporters that the president withheld aid to prompt an investigation — but Mulvaney never mentioned the Bidens.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.