In his opening statement Wednesday, Adam Schiff proclaimed that his impeachment show was about the survival of the American republic itself. Rep. Jim Jordan interrupted to ask when the committee would vote on the ability to address the vaunted “whistleblower,” known only to Schiff.
“That’s a false statement,” the intel committee boss said. “I do not know the identity of the whistleblower.” Viewers could note that Schiff was not under oath, and wonder what factual statements the Burbank Democrat might make.
Ranking Republican Devin Nunes described the hearing as a “televised theatrical performance.” The witnesses had “passed star chamber auditions” and been cast in a “low-rent” Ukrainian sequel to the Russia probe that smeared Trump as a Russian agent. The whole show was an “impeachment process in search of crime,” and Schiff’s first witness confirmed Nunes’ advance review.
George Kent bears some resemblance to actor Martin Sheen, but as Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Kent is hardly a heavy hitter. Still, he touted his illustrious family and even dropped the name of Roger Staubach. As Kent testified, the brave Ukrainians were the equivalent of our own Minutemen, and American aid was an echo of French aid to the United States during the Revolution.
Impeachment players Vindman, Hill, Yvanovich and all were the heirs of Brzezinski and Kissinger, who “fled Nazi and Communist oppression.” For Kent, Hunter Biden’s presence on the board of Burisma was a “perception of conflict of interest.” Kent was concerned that the USA not ask for prosecutions that “undermine the rule of law” or conduct “politically motivated investigations.” Later in his testimony, Kent conceded that U.S. aid, including security assistance, is always conditional.
Ambassador William Taylor was pleased that Trump had provide Javelin missiles to Ukraine but worried about the role of Rudy Giuliani and an “irregular channel.” Taylor “sat in astonishment” at the way Trump proceeded, driven by the irregular policy channel into an investigation of Burisma. “We must support Ukraine,” Taylor said, “Russian aggression cannot stand.”
When Schiff took his turn it was pure ventriloquism. Trump cares more about investigations than national security and “more Ukrainians will die,” and so on. In similar style, Democrat counsel Daniel Goldman finished his sentences with “what you are saying is.” The split screen on C-SPAN accentuated the performance, in which Goldman made Taylor read his own texts. Goldman invoked bribery and extortion on the part of President Trump, but on that subject Taylor had only hearsay.
Under questioning from Republican counsel Steve Castor, Taylor became bumbling and awkward, waving his hands more than Beto O’Rourke. Schiff interrupted to caution the witness about testifying on facts not in evidence. Republican John Radcliffe said he had objections to every question Goldman had posed and wondered about the rules. For his part, Taylor was barely aware of John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
Taylor told Rep. Jim Jordan he had a “clear understanding” about a hold on U.S. aid. Jordan asked him where he got that understanding, citing a sworn deposition that was pure hearsay from multiple parties. Jordan then told Taylor, “you’re their star witness,” which Taylor denied.
Neither star witness had ever met Trump or talked to him. Both acknowledged that Trump could fire an ambassador at will, and both denied being “never Trumpers.” Both agreed with Schiff that Trump had demanded favors of Ukrainian president Zelensky to aid his 2020 campaign, the heart of the Democrats’ case for impeachment.
Neither Taylor, Kent, or any Democrat, could point to an actual crime that might be sufficient cause for impeachment. As Nunes said, the show was an impeachment hearing in search of a crime. And Nunes recited Schiff’s fictitious version of Trump’s call to Zelensky: “I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, lots of it, understand?”
The actual “whistleblower,” might have cleared up a few things but the Democrats’ co-conspirator was not present, and Schiff would not allow questions about Democrats’ interactions with him. Even so, the show did turn up a few surprises.
Illinois Democrat, Mike Quigley, a lawyer, told the audience that “hearsay can be much better than direct evidence.” No Democrat pushed back on that contention.
New York Republican Elise Stefanik noted that the previous administration did not give Javelin missiles to Ukraine, which Kent said was correct. Stefanik also revealed that the first investigation of Burisma took place during the previous administration, which Kent also acknowledged. And it was always appropriate, Kent said, to look at corruption abroad, and normal to investigate corruption, regardless of the U.S. or foreign leaders involved.
In closing, Schiff repeated that it was “false” to claim that he knows who the whistleblower is or that he met with him. If that left viewers confused, they might recall the back story.
“Clear Clinton, frame Trump,” was POTUS 44’s original high concept for this show. The Russia collusion probe, starring Robert Mueller, was a flop. Adam Schiff is associate producer and director of the sequel, based on hearsay from an anonymous source. The Democrats may be in deep Schiff, and as President Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens.