An awkward moment from ABC News’ coverage of the Senate impeachment trial Thursday has gone viral and sparked all kinds of commentary online.
ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos —who once served as a senior advisor to the only other living impeached president not named Donald Trump — was caught on camera Thursday making a “slit-the-throat” gesture urging the crew to stop showing White House Attorney Jay Sekulow as he countered a reporter’s supposition that allies of President Trump have “made statements to the effect of ‘abuse of power is an impeachable offense.’”
Asked about “four of the president’s allies, some players in this trial, Lindsey Graham, Alan Dershowitz, even the Attorney General,” whom the reporter said had made such statements, Sekulow said:
You know, we’ve got something very different from what you’re hearing up here; you’re hearing video clips of testimony. We’ve got lawyers who are going to put forward, when our side of the case goes, that represent multiple schools of thought on what is and what is not an impeachable offense. But they have one thing in common: that the actions alleged and the actions of the president do not reach that level, no matter which school of thought you’re on. And we’re not afraid to put out both of those schools of thought because our position is you still have to meet basic fundamental constitutional obligations, and they haven’t. Next?
The camera then cut to Stephanopoulos, who made the slit-the-throat motion before he realized he was live. Realizing that his throat-slashing “cut” gesture was caught on air, Stephanopoulos winced and offered a meek grin before rapidly moving on to a panel discussion on the latest developments in the trial.
“And that is Jay Sekulow right there,” says Stephanopoulos, still slightly grinning, “and let’s bring in our panel…”
The video has circulated online, where it’s garnered a wide range of reactions, some amused while others have taken a more serious angle on Stephanopoulos’ eagerness to get Trump’s lawyer off the screen.
RNC Rapid Response Director Steve Guest summed up a lot of the conservative response in his takeaway: “This is what media bias looks like featuring ABC’s [Stephanopoulos].”
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 24, 2020
Among the key points of contention in the first few days of the trial is the Democrats’ demand for the Senate to hear more witnesses, most notably former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, whom the White House has protected from testifying through executive privilege.
In order to subpoena Bolton with the intent of using the courts to force his testimony, which could take weeks or even months, Democrats need to peel away four Republican senators. One of the major targets is Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has consistently been one of the more “independent” of the Senate Republicans. But as The Hill reported Friday, the Democrats’ efforts to convince Murkowski and others to side with them is not going well.
“It’s kind of like the House made a decision that they didn’t want to slow things down by having to go through the courts,” Murkowski said of the Democratic impeachment managers’ demands. “And yet now they’re basically saying you guys need to go through the courts. We didn’t but we need you to. That’s kind of where we are.”
Other Republicans have expressed similar views, maintaining that if the Democrats wanted to get the court involved and are willing to take time to do so, they should have done it in the House, which is tasked with making the case for impeachment, not the Senate, which is supposed to rule on the evidence presented by the House rather than “fishing” for more.