Defense of the president in the impeachment trial and beyond is driving key administration allies to go to the mat for the White House during a deeply partisan time for Washington.
Here's the big takeaways from Sunday's episode of "Face the Nation" with Margaret Brennan
Cotton defends Trump's comments on soldiers suffering "headaches" in wake of attack
- Republican Senator Tom Cotton defended President Trump for saying soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in Iraq had "headaches," arguing the president was simply "describing" their injuries.
- What Cotton said: "He's not dismissing their injuries. He's describing their injuries," the Arkansas senator, an Army veteran who served in Iraq. "If they are, in fact, if all these injuries are not serious, if they're all on the less serious side of the scale than the severe traumatic side of the scale, the president is just describing what happened there. He was not dismissing them."
- On Troop impeachment: Cotton also discussed the ongoing impeachment trial, saying he would not be voting to call witnesses: "We don't need to prolong what's already taken five months," Cotton said. He said the president's attorneys "demolished" the arguments by House impeachment managers when they argued Mr. Trump's case for the first time on Saturday
Why his defense matters: The Pentagon said Friday that 34 U.S. service members have been treated for concussion symptoms and traumatic brain injuries suffered in the Iranian missile attack on an airbase in Iraq on January 8. The day after the attack, the president said in an address to the nation that no Americans were harmed. The Pentagon admitted on January 16 that 11 U.S. service members were being treated for concussion symptoms and screened for traumatic brain injuries.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump dismissed the head injuries, saying they weren't "very serious." Several veterans' groups have criticized Mr. Trump for his comments and called on him to apologize. "I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things," Mr. Trump said. "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."
On "Face the Nation," Cotton instead pointed to progress in how the military treats traumatic brain injuries as a means to defend the president's comments that have since drawn ire by the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who says they expect an apology form the commander-in-chief for his "misguided remarks." It shows the lengths some Republicans closest to Trump are willing to go to protect the White House.
Rep. Crow downplays criticism from GOP senators open to calling witnesses
- Democratic Representative Jason Crow, one of the House impeachment managers, downplayed criticism from Republican senators who have expressed an openness to calling witnesses in President Trump's Senate trial, saying the decision on whether to allow witnesses "isn't about any one person."
- What Crow said: "This isn't about how people are feeling about this issue," Crow "Face the Nation." "Everybody sitting in that chamber has taken an oath to be an impartial juror."
- Why that matters: Democrats have warned their Republican colleagues that they'd be complicit in a "cover-up" should they not vote to support the need for further witnesses. But with the release of purported details in former National Security Adviser John Bolton's unpublished manuscript, the case for calling key administration officials like Bolton himself to testify is becoming all the more necessary in some wavering Republican's eyes. While he "can't read people's minds," Crow told Face he hoped Republicans would vote to call allow deliberations over those very witnesses.
Buttigieg warns that Sanders could alienate GOP and independent voters
- 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg warned Saturday that Senator Bernie Sanders runs the risk of alienating Republican and independent voters who might be open to voting for a Democratic presidential candidate because of concerns with President Trump.
- What Buttigieg said: "There are a lot of folks who are ready to consider voting Democrat for the first time in a long time. But I want to make sure that they feel welcome in that coalition we're building," he in an interview with CBS News' Ed O'Keefe.
- Why that matters: Buttigieg isn't far behind Sanders, and Joe Biden in the CBS News' newest Battleground Tracker poll released on Sunday of Democrats likely to participate in the Iowa caucus but is farther back in the 14 states holding contests on Super Tuesday. A New York Times/Siena College poll of Iowa Democrats released on Saturday also gave Sanders a lead. With now just a week before the coveted Iowa Caucuses, Buttigieg is attempting to reach out to more moderate liberals and remind them that the fight in 2020 is much more than party unity, it's about mounting a solid case against the sitting president.