What happens when former Republican congressmen-turned-CNN contributors stop being polite, and start getting real?
During a tense and heated clash on Wednesday morning, CNN political commentators Charlie Dent and Sean Duffy argued over Tuesday’s bombshell testimony by Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor. Among other things, Taylor testified that President Donald Trump tried to coerce the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rivals by withholding military aid.
Duffy, who was one of the president’s most loyal defenders in Congress before retiring this summer, claimed that there was no quid pro quo as it related to the aid because the Ukrainians apparently weren’t aware that Trump was withholding it at the time. Duffy, meanwhile, pivoted to former Vice President Joe Biden, accusing the ex-veep of engaging in a quid pro quo.
“Joe Biden, who said if you don’t—if you don’t fire this prosecutor, I’m going to take away a billion dollars,” the former Wisconsin lawmaker declared. “That’s one thing for another thing. Donald Trump doesn’t have that because the Ukrainians never knew anything was taken away.”
(The New York Times reported on Wednesday morning, however, that Ukraine knew about the aid freeze before it became public in late August, contradicting the Trump administration's claims.)
Dent fired back, however, noting that Taylor’s testimony revealed that the Ukrainian president was being told he needed to declare on CNN he was opening investigations, adding that the Ukrainians “clearly understood the pressure they were under.”
“They needed the weapons,” Dent added. “And they were being told to make a public statement on CNN to investigate Burisma and the Bidens. That’s clear.”
Duffy, a former MTV reality-TV star, attempted to object to Dent’s assessment, prompting the so-called “Never Trump” Republican to dunk on his colleague.
“People ask me ‘Why do I push back against this administration and the president?’” Dent exclaimed. “Because my nose is not a heat-seeking missile for the president’s backside.”
“This is wrong,” he concluded. “You cannot use official resources of the government to investigate your political opponent."
It has been something of an incongruous start to Duffy’s tenure at CNN. Since joining the network as a political commentator on Sunday, Duffy has already used multiple CNN appearances to spread a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election, prompting criticism from network hosts and contributors.