If you’re listening only to Republicans’ takes on the first public impeachment hearing yesterday, you’ve been left with the impression that Democrats limped home last night, battered and ashamed, having learned nothing of value and having their star witness exposed as worthless.
In fact, if you’ve listened only to Republicans’ takes on this process from the beginning, then you’ve been given the impression that the whole thing is illegal, a sham, a farce, that the President’s rights are being violated, his enemies have been plotting this against him all along.
Friends, hear me: they are lying to you.
Garry Kasparov, Russian chess grandmaster and widely regarded symbol of opposition to Vladimir Putin, explains the Republican strategy: “The GOP keeps throwing out irrelevant garbage & conspiracy theories to convince its base that the impeachment case is too complex to follow, so just listen to them and Fox News. When in fact it’s not complicated. As I documented regarding this technique pioneered in Russia, the larger goal is to cause so much doubt and hostility that people shut down their critical thinking and trust only a few ‘friendly’ sources.” (Emphasis mine.)
For weeks, Republicans denounced behind-closed-doors hearings as “Soviet-style,” insisting that the American people have a right to know what’s going on. Then, when Democrats made them public, they started calling it a “show trial,” and the President himself said there should be no public hearings.
For weeks, Republicans pointed to the fact that Democrats had not yet held an official vote to open impeachment hearings as a “gotcha,” proving they weren’t serious about impeachment and solely motivated by politics. When Congress did hold an official vote, not a single Republican voted to investigate the President’s actions regarding Ukraine. Despite the testimony of multiple concerned civil servants, not a single Republican would go on record saying “Congress should look into this.” Which conveniently allows Republicans to now call this a partisan process.
Republicans demanded to see the transcripts, then when Democrats released them, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) refused to even read them.
The President continues to tweet (somewhat hysterically, in all caps) “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!” I did read it, and you can, too. (Keep in mind that this is not a word-for-word transcript, but a memo of the conversation. Parts have been left out—worrying parts, according to Vindman, who was on the call, and who tried to make corrections to it, but was rebuffed. The full transcript would normally have been kept on one computer system, but White House lawyers ordered it to be moved to a highly secure system. Which seems odd if it was a “perfect call” as the President has repeatedly insisted.) I have to tell you, and I’m being honest here: reading the whole transcript makes Trump look worse than before I read it. I’ll try to do a whole post on it in the near future. He wants everyone to read it because he believes it proves there was no quid pro quo, but it does quite the opposite. One begins to wonder if the President actually understands what “quid pro quo” means.
The President insists that every administration witness who testifies that he did, indeed, want a quid pro quo from Ukraine is a Never Trumper (and human scum.) But Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, donated a million dollars to Trump’s presidential campaign. He’s been a reluctant witness, modifying his memory and admitting that he did indeed tell a Ukrainian official that if they wanted their military aid, they needed to make a public statement that they’d be investigating Burisma (the company Hunter Biden was involved with) after the testimony of other witnesses put him in danger of potential perjury charges. Republicans can’t “Never Trumper” their way around this one.
Republicans continue to harp on about the identity and motivations of the whistleblower long after he or she has ceased to be necessary to this investigation. The claims laid out in the whistleblower’s report have been corroborated again and again by multiple witnesses, under oath.
Jim Jordan (R) made a splashy sound bite for himself, triumphantly crowing that a quid pro quo obviously didn’t happen, because Ukraine got their military aid, and never made that public announcement. He didn’t mention that Trump only released the aid after Congress started asking questions. Saying that that proves no quid pro quo is like saying the white nationalist who tried to blow up a temple here in Colorado recently is obviously innocent because the bomb never went off.
Lindsey Graham and Ben Shapiro have even defended Trump’s actions by claiming that he is literally too stupid and incompetent to have intentionally formed a quid pro quo. These are his defenders, people.
Some are shifting from claiming there was no quid pro quo, which was all we heard at the beginning, to saying that if there was one, it wasn’t illegal unless there was corrupt intent. (Thus the “too stupid to be corrupt” defense.) Friends, they’re making this shift because the evidence he did engage in a quid pro quo is overwhelming.
Perhaps most maddening, though, were the repeated statements yesterday about “hearsay.” Republicans mocked Ambassador Bill Taylor—by all accounts a gifted and dedicated civil servant—for giving testimony about what a member of his staff witnessed, for never having met the President, for not having “firsthand” knowledge.
So who does have firsthand knowledge about all of this? Former national security advisor, John Bolton. Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. The President’s lawyer, Rudy Guiliani. Attorney General, Bill Barr. But all of them have been forbidden to testify. By the President.
Ask yourself, if the call was so “perfect,” if the President did nothing wrong, if this is all a witch hunt, why doesn’t he want the people who know the most about it to talk to Congress?
Refusing to cooperate with a Congressional investigation and barring key witnesses from testifying is obstruction of justice.
Add it to the Articles of Impeachment.
Friends, the testimony and evidence so far are not good for the President. They’re very bad. Republicans are throwing every distraction and conspiracy theory they can think of at you, because it’s all they have.
Don’t shut down your critical thinking. Don’t let them make a simple case seem too complicated to understand. It’s not.