In contrast to the House Judiciary Committee hearings that bogged down in court fights, the impeachment inquiry is moving quickly and is producing a mound of evidence. Even without a public hearing, Democrats have moved public opinion in favor of impeachment more swiftly than even the strongest supporters of impeachment expected. How is it that Democrats are, for all intents and purposes, “winning” the impeachment inquiry?
First, they have a narrow set of facts and are sticking with the Ukraine scandal (and obstruction thereof). The story has an expanding cast of characters, but the high crime and/or misdemeanor — extorting Ukraine to help President Trump’s reelection — is easy to understand.
Second, they have cooperating witnesses willing to defy the White House’s demands that they not testify. The permanent civil servants have proved to be far more courageous and patriotic than, say, former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who declined to testify under subpoena.
Third, because Trump and his minions — including the hapless acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — fail to understand what they have done wrong, we’ve seen serial confessions. The confessions don’t add to witnesses’ credibility, but they unnerve Republicans who, again and again, get the rug pulled out from under their feet.
Fourth, there really is no “other side.” The White House has not really taken issue with the facts and we have yet to hear about any exculpatory evidence. (At worst, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, claims “not to remember” threatening Ukraine — an improbable claim but, noticeably, not a denial.) The president simply cannot comprehend that using taxpayer money (in the form of foreign aid) to shake down the Ukrainians for his own political purposes is wrong. They might as well stick to the facts in the Senate trial.
Fifth, House and Senate Republicans do not seem to think there is a substantive defense, either. They concoct specious complaints about process because they have nothing else to say.
Sixth, the media has stopped playing the moral equivalence game. A clear, consistent account of the facts is coming through to the public, no matter how many newspaper subscriptions Trump cancels. (By the way, the president is simply forcing employees to pay for subscriptions out of their own pockets since, particularly in this administration, that is how they often find out what is going on.)
Seventh, again and again, the federal courts are doing their jobs, swatting down ludicrous arguments offered by Trump’s lawyers and the White House counsel. Trump is on quite a legal losing streak — suffering defeats on production of his Mazars USA financial record, losing the denial of grand jury testimony to Congress, and receiving judicial confirmation that no floor vote to officially commence an impeachment inquiry is needed.
Eighth, word that former national security adviser John Bolton may testify should scare the living daylights out of Trump and the president’s supporters. Bolton’s eyewitness testimony won’t be able to be written off as “hearsay,” nor can he be personally dismissed as some agent of the deep state.
Ninth, there are more and more witnesses yet to come. This coming week, Tim Morrison, a National Security Council official, is slated to appear. And the House has issued subpoenas for acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought; Michael Duffey, OMB’s associate director of National Security Programs; and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a counselor at the State Department. This conspiracy surely was the worst kept secret in the administration.
Tenth, it matters that a huge majority of Americans think Trump is dishonest and has handled the inquiry poorly. Trump has no reservoir of good will, and it is easy to see that a credibility contest between Trump on one side and, well just about anyone on the other, will not go well for Trump.
None of this is to say Republicans are on the verge of a mass defection, or that there are 20 votes among the GOP members of the Senate for removal. Nevertheless, in waiting for just the right moment to launch a formal impeachment inquest and putting House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) in charge, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once more has outmaneuvered and out-messaged Trump. This time, his presidency hangs in the balance.