Florida's junior U.S. Senator, Rick Scott, has decided offense is the best defense when it comes to President Donald Trump. In an effort to get national Republicans' attention, Scott released a series of videos in which he tells dad jokes and mimics right-wing radio hosts.
Scott, who was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as an "impartial" juror in the Trump impeachment, claims in one video that he is being "held hostage" by the impeachment process.
"Please Send Help" is the title of the two-minute monologue, with the description, "I’ve been held hostage with 99 other people in the U.S. Capitol. Why? Because the Democrats hate Donald J. Trump and are trying to cover up Joe Biden's corruption."
This is what Scott says, with some of the spicier parts in bold:
Hi, I'm Rick Scott. As you may have heard, I've been taken hostage, along with 99 other people, in the U.S. capitol. We are receiving only milk and water, and we are being subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment of listening to the rantings of Adam Schiff, a person from a parallel universe.
On a slightly more serious note, everything that is happening in Washington around this impeachment fiasco is political theater. None of it is real and nothing will come of it. This entire drama, which has consumed our fed government for months, should have been conducted at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, not at the U.S. Capitol.
Oh and one more thing, you the taxpayers, you're funding this entire production, but there's no plot twist in this drama; it's all very straightforward, the Democrats hate Donald trump. They don't just dislike the guy, they hate him. They decided to impeach him even before he took office.
The case they presented to the Senate was embarrassingly weak, therefore they want to use the Senate to go fishing for more evidence, by calling more witnesses. They have admitted to the jury that their case is lame. My message to this [sic] Democrats is simple. I listened to your case and listened and listened. It's absurd, goodbye, go home. We have an election in nine months, go give that a shot.
But I will promise you this, if we end up having witnesses in the U.S. Senate, Joe Biden will be called to testify. And if that happens, he will be too cowardly to show up. But if he did show up, here's what I will ask him: Mr. Biden, why did you as vice president of the United States, threaten a foreign country and force them to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the company that was paying your son $83,000 a month? Also, Mr. Vice President, are you proud that you got away with that? And do you think the American people are that stupid? We all know what went on here. You are not fooling anyone.
Thanks for listening, I'm going to go back to my diet of milk and water. Please send help."
Democratic leaders are already deriding Scott for his stance, with Orlando state Rep. Anna Eskamani tweeting, "Hostage is not a term that should be used lightly, or in sensationalized political rhetoric."
St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman wrote on Twitter, "The voters of Florida sent you there to serve. This trial is part of your job and we expect you to take it seriously and be present. If you can't do the job without complaining about it in despicable ads then please resign and let us look to new leadership."
Scott's "Hostage" video was joined by at least one other video release on Tuesday, called "Biden Got Away With It," in which he makes a 30-second version of the same claims. Most interestingly, NBC News correspondent Mike Memoli tweeted that Scott is running these spots in Iowa.
This is what Scott says in that 30-second Iowa ad:
I'm Rick Scott, one of the jurors in the U.S. Senate. I'd like to thank the Democrats for badly botching this impeachment charade, and for spending so much time in a cover-up for Joe Biden. The real story here is the corruption Joe Biden got away with. Vice President Biden threatened the foreign country and forced them to fire prosecutor who was investigating a company paying his son 83,000 dollars a month. Biden got away with it and his son got paid. I'm Rick Scott and I approve this message.
We are required first to ask whether Scott's claims are true, which is part of the strategy of the videos. By pushing his position that "both sides" are corrupt – not just the U.S. president but a former V.P. running for president – Scott shifts attention away from Trump's well-documented abuses of power, the ones actually up for judgement before him in a Republican-controlled Senate.
Hunter Biden was indeed a director of a Ukrainian gas company while his father, Joe Biden, was vice president. This was certainly a conflict of interest for the older Biden, who did urge Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, with the threat of withholding U.S. aid. This was, however, the position of the U.S. government itself, and was the position of other international institutions. It's not clear whether the company was under investigation at the time at all, or whether switching prosecutors would have mattered, since older cases against them had been dormant. By condoning his son's corporate position at the time, Biden opened himself up to this criticism. This does not, however, have anything at all to do with the Trump impeachment trial.
The new ads are an opportunity to leverage Trump's predicament in order to show off his new national image. He had already released a video on Jan. 21 called "Let's Get Back to Work," evoking his repeated campaign slogan, but these ads are very different.
The camera gently slides left to right, and he appears to have just been drinking from a paper cup of coffee. His shirt collar is too tight around his neck, and his tie slightly crooked. He's not the corrupt rich guy who stole millions from Medicare, avoiding questions under oath to dodge prosecution; he's an anti-corruption warrior in Washington, able to hop on a radio mic and rap with the party faithful.
We're used to projection from the president, the idea that a bully will accuse his enemies of the very tactics he is employing, and Scott's videos take this to absurd new levels. Not only does Scott come with an unprecedented background getting rich from public service, he's directly related to the impeachment trial itself.
Multiple press accounts on Tuesday and Wednesday reveal that Trump, at the same 2018 dinner where he ordered the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, also talked about Florida Sen. Rick Scott with Ukrainian-born South Florida businessman Lev Parnas. In the recording, Parnas mentions he lived in Florida, and Trump asks him how Scott, then Florida’s governor, was faring in his U.S. Senate campaign.
"Rick Scott’s good," said Parnas, who was indicted with his business partner, Igor Fruman, in October on charges that he steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from foreign donors. Both are now major figures in the impeachment trial.
"Is he going to win?" Trump asks Parnas about Scott in the video. Parnas responded, "It’s going to be close, but I think we’re going to pull it out."
Parnas also said "we’re doing a fundraiser" for Scott in May, and mentioned a recent lunch with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, now one of Trump’s impeachment defense lawyers. Later in May, Fruman donated $5,400 to Scott’s Senate campaign, which the campaign later donated to charity.
Whether Trump is removed from office, or is re-elected in 2020, his term will end no later than January of 2025, following the 2024 election. This means Rick Scott can build name recognition in early primary states without threatening the boss. The more audacious and bold his claims now, the more he will be remembered in 2024 for having defended the party's leader.
If you think a Donald Trump presidency has been a disaster, consider President Rick Scott.