‘That’s a lie!’ Trump defender flails as journalist grills him over impeachment
Journalist Mehdi Hasan on MSNBC (screengrab)

British journalist Mehdi Hasan, now based in Washington, D.C. and known for his work for Al Jazeera and The Intercept, has a reputation for being a very tough interviewer when he’s talking to Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump. And Republican Steve Cortes, a Trump adviser, saw just how tough things could get when Hasan grilled him relentlessly this week about lies during the impeachment inquiry.

It was obvious that Cortes wasn’t facing Sean Hannity or another Trump devotee when Hasan bluntly asserted, “Trump tweeted, on January 27, ‘the Democrat-controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify.’ That’s not true, is it? That’s a lie! House Democrats did request John Bolton testify, and he refused on advice of the White House.”

Cortes responded that Trump’s January 27 tweet was “a very good example” of something that Trump’s detractors will “automatically” call a “lie” because they “want to assign the most nefarious possible intent.” And Cortes claimed that what Trump meant in that tweet is that House Democrats didn’t subpoena Bolton to testify during their impeachment inquiry, but Hasan wasn’t about to let him get away with it.

Trump “didn’t say that, though,” Hasan told Cortes. “He said the Democrat House never even asked. If I’m reading that as a Trump supporter, I’m like, ‘Wow, the Democrats never asked John Bolton.’ He has misled the people of America.” And Cortes responded that Trump “should have been more precise.”

Hasan cited another Trump distortion: “he said in October: Republicans were not allowed to ask questions during the House depositions. Not true. The president’s lawyer, who doesn’t have the same precision problem, I’m assuming, as the president, told the Senate last week that House Republicans were not allowed in the room where depositions took place. That’s a total lie, Steve. You know 48 Republicans on three committees had access to that room. Many of them asked questions. So, Trump and his lawyers are again misleading the American people.

Cortes again tried to use his argument that Trump could have been more “precise.” And Hasan responded that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone claimed that Rep. Adam Schiff’s “Republican colleagues” weren’t allowed “into the” Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) — which was “a lie, pure and simple.”

Although Cortes told Hasan that Cipollone made a “mistake,” he refused to admit that Cipollone lied because “the spirit of it is correct.” And Hasan stressed, “That’s a convenient get-out. But unfortunately, facts matter — and that is not factually true.”