As CNN reported, “US diplomat Bill Taylor ended up being everything Democrats hoped special investigator Robert Mueller would be — a daring patriot who emerges from the halls of American government, a man of the law driven by his deep desire to deliver the truth and save American democracy. . . . Taylor testified that Gordon Sondland said President Donald Trump cared more about investigations of the Bidens than he did about Ukraine. Taylor’s testimony left no room for ambiguity and made it clear to the House that Ukrainians face a lethal threat at home from Russia.”
Taylor and State Department official George Kent destroyed several Republican narratives. First, the very picture of consummate professionals, their mere appearance and tone laid waste to the notion they are some kind of “deep state” attack dogs.
Second, their testimony destroyed the “no harm, no foul” excuse Republicans have offered to justify the hold up in aid. Taylor made clear that military assistance to Ukraine was a matter of life and death, and indeed at least one Ukrainian died during the time he went to observe. Moreover, he made crystal clear that hurting Ukraine hurts the potential for ending the war and rewards Russia, which is contrary to our national security interest.
Third, the witnesses obliterated the smear against Joe Biden. The Post reports, “Republicans have argued that Joe Biden may have taken that step as a way to halt investigations into Burisma. Kent said that in fact he believed that assistants to the very prosecutor who Biden worked to oust were responsible for halting efforts to investigate Burisma’s chief executive because they had corruptly accepted bribes. Biden led an international coalition to remove Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, largely because it was believed he led a corrupt office.”
Fourth, Kent made clear that Giuliani was not acting in U.S. interests. “I believe [Giuliani] was looking to dig up political dirt on [Trump’s] potential rival in the next election cycle,” he said. Trump’s political interests were contrary to America’s interests.
Fifth, Taylor left no doubt that Ukraine knew its aid was being held up. (“They didn’t know, as near as I can tell, the Ukrainians didn’t know about the hold on the phone call, July 25th. That’s true. But they were told as you said, Mr. Chairman, on the first of September.”)
Finally, the testimony confirmed that in the July 25 call, Trump inquired about Burisma, the Bidens and his CrowdStrike conspiracy theory but not about generic corruption in Ukraine, and indeed Sondland made clear Trump cared more about the Bidens than Ukraine.
Republicans flopped around like a hooked fish on a deck, struggling but to no avail. The witnesses looked blankly at them or denied any knowledge when they asked questions spun off from debunked conspiracy theories. That they demanded to hear the whistleblower’s testimony, but of course had just heard from direct witnesses, reaffirmed their stunt was unrelated to fact-finding and amounted to bullying verging on witness-tampering (meant to chill others from coming forward). The one small opening they had — the lack of evidence that Trump, rather than acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney or Rudolph W. Giuliani, was orchestrating the corruption of U.S. foreign policy — fell apart with the revelation that staffer David Holmes overheard a Sondland-Trump conversation. Moreover, it is Trump who is preventing eyewitness testimony from Giuliani and Mulvaney. We can all surmise the testimony would be unfavorable to Trump.
Outside the conspiracy loop of Fox News, Republicans fail to provide any facts or theories that would exonerate Trump. Most of them will surely vote against impeachment, but how are Senate Republicans to justify a vote to acquit? After Wednesday’s hearing, I honestly have no idea.