The nice thing about the Christmas season is the way it seems to bring everyone together for a rare period of harmony and polite discourse. Some of that warmth seemed to be mysteriously missing on CNN on Friday, however, when former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter took part in a panel to discuss (what else?) the impeachment trial of the President, which may or may not be happening next month. Painter managed to avoid a Hitler reference, but not by much. He immediately invoked the Ku Klux Klan when describing how Mitch McConnell was describing how he would handle the proceedings. (Mediaite)
“For Mitch McConnell to say he’s working with the White House, coordinating with the defendant in this trial before the trial has even begun is atrocious. He may think he’s a judge impaneling an all-white jury for a Klansman trial in Mississippi in 1965. That’s not the kind of trial we have.”
Fellow panelist Rick Santorum wasn’t having it, though, interrupting to insist Painter was being “absurd.”
Painter quickly shot back that he was not being absurd, prompting Santorum to say he “was there.”
“I saw what Tom Daschle did in 1998, and I don’t think you were complaining one bit about him carrying the water for the president,” Santorum said. “This is typical, and I think completely appropriate.”
Here’s the video of the exchange from CNN’s YouTube channel.
Rick Santorum was making a good point there, reminding everyone of the hypocrisy that’s regularly on display in Washington. If he needed a better example to remind Mr. Painter of how these things work, he could simply have invoked Chuck Schumer’s name. Keep in mind that Schumer was equally critical of the things Cocaine Mitch has been saying about the handling of the trial, ignoring the fact that Schumer said almost exactly the same things, word for word, back when Clinton was heading to trial.
As to what Painter may or may not have thought of how the Clinton impeachment trial played out, that’s hard to say. He’s bounced around a bit in his career, at one point serving in the administration of George W. Bush. But he later went on to take over as the head of the left-wing watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Back during the second Clinton term, he was variously working as a law clerk on the Ninth Circuit and then for a couple of law firms in New York and Connecticut. Nobody was seeking him out for interviews at the time so he apparently wasn’t on the record.
We do have a good idea where he’s stood ideologically in more recent years, however. Before the balloons had been gathered up after Trump’s inaugural parties, Painter was spearheading a CREW lawsuit against the President alleging violations of the Emoluments Clause. Keep in mind that this was taking place in January of 2017. At that time, he suggested that if Barack Obama had failed to place certain assets in a blind trust (as opposed to transferring them to his family) he would have been “impeached in two weeks.”
Later, when Donald Trump had only been in office for four months, Painter went on the record comparing him unfavorably to Richard Nixon and claiming that he was “a Russian agent.” He again invoked the possibility of impeachment during that interview.
So Painter has been aching to impeach Trump literally since the President was sworn in. Is it any surprise that he’d now be pushing to allow the Democrats to control how the trial plays out? (Assuming Nancy Pelosi ever delivers the paperwork.) You can safely take anything Richard Painter has to say vis a vis Donald Trump with a substantial grain of salt.