George Stephanopoulos is someone Trump allies and administration officials should know to avoid like the plague by now.
To be sure, this president’s surrogates struggle to defend themselves under questioning no matter who is doing the asking, but Stephanopoulos’s style is particularly difficult to navigate for people whose job it is to lie.
On Sunday, George got a crack at Mike Pompeo, who was asked about Mick Mulvaney’s stunning admission that while the Trump administration did not demand a quid pro quo from Ukraine with regard to Joe Biden, the Zelensky government was apprised of the extent to which hundreds of millions in US aid was effectively contingent upon an investigation of Democrats. Here is the clip again, from a press conference Mulvaney held last Thursday:
Mulvaney was forced to release a statement hours after that exchange disavowing his own remarks, but it only served to underscore just how potentially damaging his comments in fact were.
“Do you agree that it would have been inappropriate to withhold the military aid unless this political investigation was pursued?”, Stephanopoulos asked Pompeo on Sunday.
“George, I’m telling you what I was involved with”, a visibly perturbed Pompeo stammered. “Hey George, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things — what someone else has said”.
“It’s not a hypothetical. We saw the acting chief of staff –“, Stephanopoulos pressed. “It is George, you just said ‘If this happened…’ that is by definition a hypothetical'”, Pompeo snapped, clearly thinking he had prevailed.
As you can see, Stephanopoulos persisted. “The chief of staff said it did”.
The pause from Pompeo is telling. At this juncture, even Sarah Sanders would have trouble papering over the cracks in the narrative.
Do yourself a favor and watch that moment again – and do count the seconds as Pompeo stares blankly at the American public with nothing to offer.
If so, don’t worry – Congress will be asking them for you soon enough.