An embattled Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined an embattled Democrat, ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos, in a rare showing of bipartisan support for the Hillary Clinton-backed Obamatrade deal on Sunday morning.
With Stephanopoulos on the ropes over his $75,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation — a fact he didn’t bother to disclose before interviewing Breitbart News senior editor Peter Schweizer about his book Clinton Cash — there are serious questions being raised about McConnell’s decision to attempt to help the former Bill Clinton staffer.
“McConnell is now taking his ‘non-partisan’ governing agenda to the media,” Daniel Horowitz of the Conservative Review, a leading critic of the GOP establishment, tells Breitbart News. “He has this leadership thing exactly backward. Instead of embracing conservatives, McConnell embraces the repudiated policies, politicians, and media figures of the Left.”
McConnell’s office hasn’t responded to a Breitbart News request for comment on why he’d throw Stephanopoulos a lifeline—appearing on his show lends him credibility. Stephanopoulos has had to recuse himself from Republican debates in 2016, and won’t be allowed to moderate them—despite previous plans to do so—but is still moving forward with plans to be involved in ABC News’ 2016 and political coverage despite his conflict of interest that he kept from the public until he was later caught. Many, including the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell, are calling for Stephanopoulos to recuse himself from all 2016 political coverage–noting that ABC is facing a credibility crisis with him at the helm.
McConnell has come under fire from both sides over the past week for pushing the secretive Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—during her time as Secretary of State—helped negotiate with several Pacific Rim nations. In fact, conservative activist Rick Manning—the president of advocacy group Americans for Limited Government—argues that McConnell is jeopardizing Republican control of the U.S. Senate in the next election by pushing this massively unpopular trade deal through Congress.
In a statement last week, Manning noted that “without enforceable currency provisions in the trade authority itself, these votes [that McConnell has planned for this week] risk Senate Republican seats in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to name just a few, putting the Senate majority in real jeopardy in 2016.”
“Rather than continuing down this politically ruinous course, Republican leaders should promote solutions that unite the Party, instead of those that deepen the divide between the big business wing and the voters Republicans need to win,” Manning said.
But none of the bipartisan opposition to Obamatrade, which McConnell is going to attempt to force through the U.S. Senate this coming week, made it into Stephanopoulos’ talk show on Sunday. Instead, the only question Stephanopoulos asked McConnell about the matter was whether he and President Obama were planning to get together to drink bourbon whiskey. The news package that set up the interview wasn’t much better—quoting only McConnell’s support for the deal from the Senate floor and the opposition from liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—leaving out the critical context of the opposition from people such as Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
When ABC’s This Week returned from commercial after the package, and McConnell joined the show live, Stephanopoulos opened with the trade issue.
He played another clip of McConnell from the Senate floor. “I’d like to thank the president, too,” McConnell said. “No, you’re not hearing things. President Obama has done his country a service by taking on his base and pushing back on some of the more ridiculous rhetoric we’ve heard.”
“And there’s the Senate majority leader this Thursday, Mitch McConnell,” Stephanopoulos said coming out of the clip. “Mr. Leader, thank you for joining us. This morning, this is the president’s top legislative priority right now, this trade promotion authority. You appear to be his pointman in the Senate. What is it going to take to get it passed and are you confident it will?”
McConnell predicted that the Senate will pass the trade deal this week.
“Yes, we’ll pass it,” McConnell replied to Stephanopoulos.
We’ll pass it later this week. The president has done an excellent job on this. I point out to my members who are somewhat squeamish, as you can imagine, giving the president the power of any issue, given his expansive view of his powers on so many other issues. But this is a trade promotion authority not just for President Obama, but for the next president as well.
This is a six-year trade promotion authority bill that will give the next president an opportunity to enter into additional trade agreements with other countries around the world. We know America is a big winner when we lower barriers to our products abroad. It also has a foreign policy and defense component. A lot of the countries in Asia are a little apprehensive, as you can imagine, about not only Chinese economic domination, but potential Chinese military domination. And so they would like to get closer to us. And this is a great opportunity to do that, as well as to benefit America and to create more jobs here in our country.
Stephanopoulos then talked about a “bourbon summit” between McConnell and Obama over trade.
“I saw that little smile when you discussed President Obama,” Stephanopoulos said. “You described your relationship with the president right now as kind of an out-of-body experience. How do you intend to build on that? Do you want to build on it? And does it mean that that bourbon summit that everyone’s been talking about is no longer necessary?”
McConnell replied with an answer about what he’s trying to do as Senate Majority Leader.
“We’ve got a new Senate now,” McConnell said.
We’re actually voting again. We voted more than 100 times in the first quarter of this year. Last year, only 15 roll calls votes on amendment the entire year. We passed a budget. For the last five years, the Senate did not pass a budget, which is required by the law.
The Senate is getting back to work, and what I’m doing is focusing on things upon which there’s some bipartisan agreement. We passed an excellent Iran nuclear review bill overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans. The president is going to sign it. We have a cyber security bill coming forward that came out of the Intelligence Committee overwhelmingly.
Elementary and secondary education came out of that committee overwhelmingly. We’re trying to focus on the things that we can agree on that will make progress for the country, George, even though we know there are many things we do not agree with the president on, and all of those will probably come to the fore on spending bills. We want to spend more on defense; they want to spend more on everything.
“So no need for bourbon with the president?” Stephanopoulos pressed further, insisting that McConnell answer such an important question.
“I’d be happy to do that, but we don’t have a personality problem; we just had differences on issues,” McConnell replied. “But there are some things we agree on, and I try to focus on the things that we do agree on, and where we can make progress for the country.”
From there, Stephanopoulos moved on from Obamatrade—again without asking any tough or specific questions. That’s to be expected, since Stephanopoulos—an advocate for liberalism and big government from his perch at ABC News—frequently does advocacy interviews on things like this where he won’t ask real questions but will just let politicians who support what he does, like Clinton, McConnell and Obama do with this trade deal, talk about why they back it.
Stephanopoulos saved his tough questions for McConnell—including where he asked McConnell about specific disagreements he has with Rand Paul, his Kentucky colleague and a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, on the National Security Agency bulk data collection program.
“Your own Senate colleague from Kentucky, Rand Paul, wants to end the program,” Stephanopoulos said. “He put out a tweet this week saying I will fight tooth and nail to stop a blanket reauthorization of this attack on our freedoms. How do you respond to that, that the NSA surveillance program is an attack on our freedoms?”
But Stephanopoulos asked no such question about the trade deal—and made no mention his entire show of this—and Sen. Paul’s ardent opposition to the deal. In fact, Paul not only came out against the trade deal publicly, he even went to the secret room inside the Capitol to read it, and in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News outside that room called for its public release.
“The thing is is that I think it actually hurts their cause by making it so secretive—while I can’t discuss the details of what was in there because of them calling it secret, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t think couldn’t be made public with a problem,” Paul said in his Breitbart News interview. “If so, I’m missing something because we read through 800 pages of it and we didn’t see anything that I couldn’t conclude couldn’t be made public.”
Again, somehow, this never happened according to Stephnanopoulos’ Sunday show and interview with McConnell. Stephanopoulos even asked yet another question a moment later about Sen. Paul.
“Finally, sir, you mentioned that you and Rand Paul agree on most things,” Stephanopoulos asked. “In fact, he’s one of three senators running. He’s your candidate for president. Make the 30-second case for why he should be president.”
“You know, one of the great things that Rand Paul has done is reach out to different constituencies,” McConnell replied.
I’ve been thrilled to how he’s gone to African American audiences. He’s very appealing to young people. Look, we all know that in order to be competitive in presidential elections, we have to carry more voters than we have in recent years, which is not enough to win the White House. So Rand has brought a kind of new brand of Republicanism to the contest. I think it’s exciting to a lot of people, and I wish him well.
ABC spokeswoman Heather Riley—who has been frequently defending Stephanopoulos amid his Clinton Cash craze—did not respond to a request for comment on why the ABC host and former Bill Clinton White House senior staffer didn’t ask McConnell about Paul’s opposition to Obamatrade or other Republican opposition from senators like Sessions or presidential candidates like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or more.
What’s interesting here is that Stephanopoulos’ work alongside McConnell to help push the Obamatrade deal comes on the heels of a new revelation from liberal media outlet Vox that ties Clinton Cash together with Obamatrade. The Vox article basically walks through how the Obamatrade deal and Clinton Cash narratives are intertwined. Jonathan Allen writes:
Almost a decade ago, as Hillary Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate on her way to seeking the presidency for the first time, the New York Times reported on her unusually close relationship with Corning, Inc., an upstate glass titan. Clinton advanced the company’s interests, racking up a big assist by getting China to ease a trade barrier. And the firm’s mostly Republican executives opened up their wallets for her campaign.
During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The company has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family’s foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.
Right after McConnell was on the show, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—a liberal from California—shocked the left by coming out in favor of the trade deal.
“I do support the trade bill and I’ll tell you why: I’m a born-and-raised Californian on the rim of the largest trading basin the world,” she said.
Nothing is going to decrease the trade between countries along the Pacific Ocean. It surpassed the Atlantic several years ago. Therefore the kind of trade, free trade, the ability to have enforcement mechanisms to prevent anti-dumping, to protect copyright, to prevent forced labor, child labor is very important. And that’s what this will do. The enforcement section and the trade assistance section, which passed the Senate with more than 70 votes, is vital to this.
Feinstein added that she doesn’t believe the deal is for “corporate America” and that it “creates jobs” as long as it’s “done right.”
A congressional aide told Breitbart News that McConnell and Feinstein running to Stephanopoulos while he’s amid his own scandal to push Obamatrade was a “slippery but brilliant move.”
“Merits of the deal aside, they are brilliant politicians,” the aide said.