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A shame Trump canceled his subscription. Here's a perfect impeachment defense.

Dana Milbank on

"I'm not frustrated at all," Kellyanne Conway, the brains behind President Trump's communications strategy, insisted Friday morning as she answered questions in the White House driveway about Trump's muddled messaging on impeachment.

"It's not frustration," the presidential counselor elaborated. "It's consternation."

Why she thought that word sounded better -- consternation means "amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion" -- is a mystery. But the definition fits the moment.

The Washington Examiner had just published a conversation in which Conway mocked and demeaned a reporter, describing herself as "a powerful woman" and threatening to have the White House expose details about the reporter's personal life. Now Conway was fielding questions about that episode and about Trump's confused impeachment response.

"There is no coherent message coming out of the White House on impeachment," one of her interrogators observed.

Conway attempted to refute that observation -- with 20 minutes of incoherence.

 

She spoke about due process. She spoke about Andrew Johnson. She said Adam Schiff is a liar. She spoke about Nixon. She spoke about unmasking the whistleblower. She spoke about Bill Clinton. She spoke about corruption in Ukraine. She spoke about the Founding Fathers. She spoke, in no particular order, about fake news, cross examinations, the Second Amendment, Robert Mueller, parking tickets, Nancy Pelosi, Twitter trolls, "cable news cranks" and journalists' "presumptive negativity." She challenged the character of witness William Taylor, Trump's acting ambassador to Ukraine. She called Democrats an "angry mob" trying to "undo" the 2016 election and "interfere with" 2020. She offered various explanations for why it wasn't a quid pro quo to ask for a probe of Joe Biden while suspending military aid. She explained why this clear violation of election law would be neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor.

Somewhere in the middle of this ramble, Conway proposed an entirely new defense of Trump's behavior with Ukraine: Regardless of what happened, it wasn't a quid pro quo because Trump did not desire in his soul for it to be a quid pro quo.

"There was no quid pro quo intended," she reasoned. "I think intent matters. And when people say 'this is what the president intended, this is what the president believes' ... you don't know that. So let's take a deep breath and stop pretending we know what's in somebody else's heart, mind or soul."

Genius! Trump can never be impeached because what matters is what is in his heart and his soul, and only he knows that. Likewise, he can't be prosecuted for shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue (as the administration argued in court this week) because we cannot know where his heart and soul intended the bullet to go.

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