In the end, what we really witnessed on Day One of the public impeachment inquiry was the spectacle of Republicans continuing to implement the scheme that President Trump has been implementing all along.

Again and again, one Republican after another used up their time returning to a suite of discredited conspiracy theories about supposed Ukrainian-Democratic collusion in 2016 and floating claims about the Bidens that have been completely debunked.

This created an amusing disconnect that in one sense actually served to undercut the defense of Trump — at least, in the real world outside the Fox News bubble in which those conspiracy theories and lies are taken as gospel truths.

On the one hand, Republicans piously insisted over and over again that Trump, in his interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, was only concerned with getting Zelensky to investigate generic corruption in his country. This, you see, was actually in our national interest.

Yet at the same time, Republicans themselves kept using their time to return to the specific examples of (invented) corruption involving 2016 and the Bidens that Trump has been obsessing over for many, many months.

One reason Republicans kept returning to those examples, of course, is because they are supposed to exonerate Trump. The argument is supposed to be that pressuring Zelensky to investigate those things was justified, because they constitute actual examples of Ukrainian corruption that Trump was concerned about.

In reality, these things don’t justify what Trump did, since both are inventions. But beyond this, the very fact that Republicans kept stressing them itself actually bolsters the case against Trump.

That’s because these performances, which were intended to please the Audience of One, illustrate once again that the only examples of “corruption” Trump truly cared about were the very ones Trump and his henchmen invented for the express purpose of carrying out his twin political goals — absolving Russia of sabotaging 2016 on his behalf and smearing Joe Biden going into 2020.

And it’s precisely because Trump still remains as adamant as ever about carrying out those goals that Republicans kept returning to those things during the hearing. They were simply carrying forward that project.

All this was underscored by this exchange between Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and George Kent, the senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine. Watch the whole thing:

As this shows, what Trump did in pressuring Zelensky to carry out his political bidding — to launch investigations that would magically make his conspiracy theories and false narratives about 2016 and the Bidens true, or at least get mainstream news organizations to treat them seriously — had nothing whatsoever in common with an actual effort to get Ukraine to combat generic corruption.

But the key point here is that Trump still remains preoccupied above all with realizing the goal of making those things true. That’s why Trump himself continues to keep admitting — to reporters and on Twitter — that he actually did want Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

After all, that’s why his campaign and the GOP put $10 million into this ad:

Trump failed in his effort to extort Ukraine into manufacturing fake evidence to bolster his story lines. But he can’t let go of them — he seems to think his reelection depends on realizing this project — and he still has Republicans in Congress using the impeachment hearings to do it for him.

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