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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's gift-return-ravaged weekly Independent comics page: (Th)ink looks at a primary difference between the current president and Hitler; This Modern World listens to Trump's Christmas address; Jen Sorensen ponders ways to enlighten people these days; Red Meat heads for a wintertime survival campout; and Apoca Clips watches as Li'l Trumpy checks in with the Saudis.

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On this week's yule log-warmed weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World examines the latest case taken up by Donald J. Trump, detective-in-chief; Jen Sorensen looks at a proposed Ohio law that demands doctors perform a procedure that ... doesn't exist?; The K Chronicles shakes his head at racism in Italian soccer; Red Meat takes in a festive Christmas movie; and Apoca Clips watches as Li'l Trumpy engages in some puppetry.

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On this week's multicolored-light-strewn weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World again puts on MAGA-vision; Jen Sorensen ponders all the retro trends; (Th)ink looks inside the mind of Mr. Zuckerberg; Red Meat needs to revise a history paper; and Apoca Clips posits that Rudy's goose may be cooked.

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Happy Thanksgiving! On this week's gravy-slathered weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips learns the real truth behind that ridiculous Tesla truck announcement; Red Meat makes plans for a solo Thanksgiving; This Modern World looks at the perspective of wealthy Democrats; Jen Sorensen wonders what happens if a president commits crimes, but almost half the country doesn't believe it; and The K Chronicles has a Hollywood moment.

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On this week's cornbread-stuffing-filled weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World wonders what the deal is with all this impeachment stuff; Jen Sorensen looks at Facebook going all the way to 1984; The K Chronicles isn't very impressed by Hollywood; Red Meat suffers the consequences of some unwise diet choices; and Apoca Clips "learns" something at a convention.

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On this week's pumpkin-pie-infused weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat deals with a bad cough; Apoca Clips checks in with Donny Junior on his book tour; Jen Sorensen ponders "woke culture"; The K Chronicles offers a soundtrack for the upcoming race war; and This Modern World looks at the aftermath of a Donald Trump bank robbery.

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In a mostly party-line vote last week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution establishing the ground rules for the ongoing impeachment inquiry—allowing the release of deposition transcripts, providing opportunities for the president’s lawyers to present evidence, and setting up televised public hearings just in time for Thanksgiving.

This, of course, didn’t stop House Minority Whip Steve Scalise from complaining about “Soviet-style impeachment proceedings.” Other Republicans argued that Democrats were “abusing the process” or that, because no Republicans voted for the inquiry, it’s merely a partisan sideshow.

Even so, now that the impeachment inquiry is officially official, we should be getting a sense of how the White House and its allies plan to defend Donald Trump against mounting evidence that he withheld military aid as leverage to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals. What we’re actually seeing, however, is not one defense, but scattershot multiple defenses—some contradictory, some conspiratorial, and some that seem culled from a Reddit thread, all led by a president who refuses to admit the possibility that he did anything inappropriate, let alone illegal. As best I can tell, there are four at play:

1. No quid pro quo.

2. Sure, a quid pro quo, but it wasn’t illegal.

3. An attempted quid pro quo, but that doesn’t count.

4. Hell yeah, a quid pro quo, but it was a good thing, because The Truth Is Out There, man. 

The first defense belongs to Donald Trump, and increasingly to Donald Trump alone. In his mind, and on his Twitter feed, the July phone call with Ukraine’s president—in which, according to the White House’s edited account of the conversation, he conditioned aid on an investigation into a conspiracy theory that the Ukrainians framed Russia for the 2016 DNC hack and urged an investigation into the Bidens—was “perfect.” There was nothing inappropriate about it. No quid pro quo.

Since Trump did no wrong, everyone who says he did must be part of a conspiracy. The whistleblower, Trump tweeted, “must be brought forward to testify.” The top Ukrainian expert on the National Security Council—who testified that he was told Trump would only meet with Ukraine’s president if Ukraine opened the investigations Trump demanded—is a now “Never Trumper,” Trump has asserted, as if that has any bearing on the substance of his testimony.

The no-quid-pro-quo line has become a bridge too far for even some loyalists. After all, even the best news the White House got last week—that a Trump appointee to the NSC said he didn’t think there was anything illegal about the call with the Ukrainian president—also came with the confirmation that Trump froze military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his enemies.

That brings us to defense No. 2: The quid pro quo happened, but it wasn’t criminal (or impeachable). The Washington Post reported that, during a private Senate GOP lunch last week, some senators pitched this line of attack—“the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine.” As Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, told the Post, “To me, this entire issue is gonna come down to: Why did the president ask for an investigation? To me, it all turns on intent, motive.”

This defense would work better if Trump didn’t stomp on it. On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the story was “false.” Perhaps a quid pro quo wasn’t impeachable, he said, but it didn’t matter, because there wasn’t one.

Then there’s defense No. 3, that Trump’s conspiracy failed, so no harm, no foul. Per The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page: “Democrats want to impeach Mr. Trump for asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival for corruption, though the probe never happened, and for withholding aid to Ukraine that in the end wasn’t withheld.”

It’s true that Trump released the money just before the scandal broke, but the fact that he got caught before his extortion scheme bore fruit hardly speaks to a presidential temperament. Besides, his efforts to stoke an investigation in Ukraine continue. Just last week, NBC News reported, Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine meeting with a former diplomat who alleges that Ukraine’s government conspired with the DNC to hurt Trump in 2016. At the same time, a group of Russia-friendly Ukrainian parliamentarians are seeking an investigation into whether their country set up Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, now a resident of a federal prison.

Giuliani tweeted last week that “frenzied” Democrats are “covering up, because it’s bigger than you think.”

And herein lies the last line of defense, that there is a grand conspiracy yet to be unraveled, connecting the Deep State and the Obama administration and Joe Biden and the DNC and Ukraine and Russia and George Soros and probably Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files.

Trump’s die-hards are pinning their hopes on John Durham, the prosecutor Attorney General William Barr tapped to investigate the investigators who first looked into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, an effort—like Giuliani in Ukraine—to discredit the Intelligence Community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Over the weekend, The Independent reported that, based on Barr’s requests to British intelligence services, officials there believe “they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services.”

As incoherent as they seem, these defenses are all aimed at a singular audience. Over the weekend, NBC and Fox News released polls showing that 49 percent of voters believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office. But both polls also showed that about 90 percent of Republicans oppose impeachment. As long as that’s the case, the White House’s bet is that there’s no way the Republican-led Senate will convict Trump … so long as there’s a thin reed to grasp.

Anything will do, really.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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On this week's tax-return-releasing weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips welcomes back Flamey the Fire Safety Rhino; Red Meat has an idea for a movie; This Modern World gets Trump's thoughts on that perfect phone call; Jen Sorenson ponders Bill Barr's attack on the non-devout; and The K Chronicles examines the early dissent over primate change.

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On this week's power-outage, fire-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles plays the victim card; This Modern World talks lynchings; Jen Sorensen ponders the hurdles between here and Trump's removal from office; Red Meat pays tribute to the glue stick; and Apoca Clips listens as Li'l Trumpy talks about the killing of that terrorist.

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On this week's illegitimate, unconstitutional, witch-hunt-laden weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen looks at the Trump administration's next potential claim; The K Chronicles examines how police get treated when they kill a citizen; This Modern World listens to Rudy go on and on; Apoca Clips listens to Mick Mulvaney go on and on; and Red Meat wonders why Mr. Bix threw up where he did.

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