A steady stream of current and former officials — e.g., Kurt Volker, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, George P. Kent — have trooped in to testify before the three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Kent raised concerns to colleagues early this year about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, according to people familiar with Mr. Kent’s warnings.
As far back as March, they said, Mr. Kent was pointing to Mr. Giuliani’s role in what he called a “disinformation” campaign intended to use a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear targets of the president.

Kent’s testimony is reportedly backed up by “internal State Department emails,” and his credibility is particularly high since he had been involved in legitimate efforts to root out Ukrainian corruption.

There are four critical consequences that follow from the testimony of these witnesses.

First, the whistleblower has become essentially irrelevant. The investigators have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to witnesses with firsthand knowledge of events. The old talking points that the whistleblower was biased and relating hearsay have become moot. This is especially problematic for Trump, who thrives on identifying a single villain.

Second, witnesses paint an identical picture: Trump through Giuliani was attempting to force Ukraine to provide dirt on a political opponent and held up aid to accomplish that aim. Career diplomats and political appointees such as former national security adviser John Bolton knew this was legally problematic. In contrast to career diplomats, Attorney General William P. Barr has been continuing the effort to enlist foreign help in digging up nonexistent evidence of Trump’s crackpot theory that the Democratic National Committee’s server was in Ukraine. As for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his utter failure to protect honest and competent diplomats such as Yovanovitch has earned him the eternal resentment and anger of professionals at Foggy Bottom, underscoring his legacy as a presidential apple-polisher who willingly went along with Trump’s prevarication.

Third, the entire mystique of “executive privilege” has vanished. Current and former officials have been told not to testify. They have properly ignored this unsupportable claim. Once a couple did this, a parade followed. (Interestingly, former White House counsel Donald McGahn is still abiding by Trump’s entirely illegitimate claim of “absolute immunity” in refusing to testify about the events covered in the Mueller report. He will not be remembered well for refusing to disgorge evidence of impeachable and possibly illegal conduct.)

Finally, the evidence has become overwhelming, leaving Republicans with virtually no ground on which to stand to defend Trump. Instead they whine about process (behind closed doors! no vote of the full House to kick off impeachment!), none of which is germane or exculpatory.

In short, the power of formal impeachment coupled with the bravery of the original whistleblower has blown the lid off Trump’s betrayal of U.S. democracy. He would use taxpayer-funded aid and a White House visit for the purpose of furthering his corrupt, partisan ends. There can be no better example of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” especially if one includes attempts to block witness testimony and hide the transcript of the July 25 phone call (obstruction) and Trump’s threats to a legally protected whistleblower.

One does wonder whether at some point saner heads in the Republican caucus will prevail, leading to a flock of Republicans abandoning a president with no rational defense. A new ad from the group Need to Impeach (founded by Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer) attempts to pit Trump against Republican senators, especially Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

You do wonder if McConnell’s advice to Trump to release thereadout of the July 25 call was a sly move to begin the process of sinking Trump. The ad is correct: Republican senators have a choice whether to defend an indefensible president or save themselves.

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