Ambassador William B. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and an appointee of President Trump’s, testified that one of his aides overhead a phone call between European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a top Trump donor and also appointee, and the President. When the call ended the staffer asked Sondland about it. The ambassador said Trump cared more about investigations of his political opponent than about Ukraine, offering the first direct evidence of Trump’s desires when it came to holding up military aid to Ukraine.
That didn’t stop Republicans from arguing that the witnesses never met Trump and therefore, I guess, couldn’t know what they were talking about.
And Season One was off and running!
Enough with "The Apprentice", Trump’s previous reality show, this one has more plot twists, more intrigue, more corruption! Watch it! Because that’s not all…
Yesterday’s first hearing in the impeachment inquiry was not “boring” as the White Hou, called it. It was a primer on foreign policy and Ukraine policy in particular. The two witnesses – Taylor, who is our acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in charge of Ukraine policy at the State Department, were straight out of central casting.
Serious, sober, focused on answering questions but not offering opinions, like thousands of other career civil servants who dedicate their lives not to making money or policy but to providing United States' citizens with dedicated service. Kent, sporting a bow tie and vest, reminded me of Ducky on NCIS. But I digress…
Democrats, trying to put on their most serious faces because impeachment is indeed a serious business, and Republicans, trying to defend on the edges because they cannot defend Trump’s behavior, had at it from the first moments.
Taylor, in his testimony, explained that the Trump Administration had a regular channel for foreign policy led by the State Department and an irregular channel led by the President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The Republican counsel asked Taylor, “This irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”
A Republican staffer behind the counsel rolled his eyes and Taylor, chuckling, said “it’s not as outlandish as it could be, I agree.”
Remember, now, that counsel was brought in to lead the questioning so publicity grabbing congressmen didn’t go off in crazy directions, and get off message.
When you don’t have the facts argue the…I don’t whatever you can grab I guess (similar to the President’s strategy toward women), is the Republican strategy toward the hearings.
Taylor and Kent, though, were of the Jack Webb School of Witnesses – just the facts, ma’am. In fact many columnists this morning compared Taylor’s voice and approach to Walter Cronkite’s, further evidencing his just-the-facts approach. As much as the President wants to believe this was an example of the “deep state” in the bureaucracy out to get him, this really was an example of career bureaucrats focused on their jobs and following the laws.
There was, of course, further associated inanity with the day.
Trump said he hadn’t watched a minute of the hearing but his Twitter account issued about 20 impeachment inquiry-focused tweets during the hearing.
And, Trump was also meeting at the same time with Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan in the White House. Erdogan is the leader Trump warned against attacking the Kurds after the U.S., on Trump’s orders, abandoned them mid-war. You may recall shortly after the warning, Turkey attacked the Kurds.
While Trump withheld a White House meeting from Ukraine’s newly elected president to add pressure to get his way, he gave such a meeting to Erdogan who ignored Trump’s “stern warning.” Are you following?
Shoeless Joe Jackson was an early 20th Century baseball player with what became known as the Black Sox Scandal. Jacketless Jim Jordan, a California congressman who doesn’t wear a suit jacket and can’t explain why that is, and Trump’s designated lead defender in the hearings (specially appointed to this position because everyone figured he’d be the best Trump defender), flubbed it when he delivered a long monologue demanding that the legally protected whistleblower whose letter to authorities started the path toward impeachment, be unmasked and brought in to testify!
Jordan launched into an extended monologue about how unjust it was that Democrats weren't allowing the committee to question "the person who started it all," referring to the whistleblower. "We'll never get a chance to question that individual," he said.
Peter Welch, a Democratic congressman from Vermont, retorted, "I'd be glad to have the person who 'started it all' come in and testify." Gesturing toward the witness table he said, "President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there." The chamber erupted in laughter.
This was only the first episode. Binge watching will ensue.