|EVAN VUCCI/ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Removing this petty, shabby tyrant from office goes a long way to restoring and resetting the Constitution as a limit on power and a guarantee against its wanton future abuse. It must be done. With speed, with vigor, and with determination. ~ ANDREW SULLIVAN
Donald Trump's congressional Republican sycophancy has a very big problem.
The evidence that the president held up desperately needed military aid for Ukraine and a promised White House visit for its president by trying to extort him to dig up dirt on the Bidens and other Democrats in a bald-faced effort to influence the 2020 election is overwhelming. That evidence of this impeachable high crime comes not from House Democrats but 13 career diplomats and other administration officials who have disobeyed Trump's orders and appeared before investigators. And so in a contemporary turn on the old adage that if you have lemons you make lemonade, Trump's allies are desperately attempting to divert attention from the beleaguered president.
With public impeachment hearings beginning on Wednesday, Republicans are demanding that witnesses be added to the probe, including former vice president Joe Biden's son, Hunter, his business partner, Devon Archer, and the whistleblower whose initial complaint kicked off the Ukraine investigation.
Republicans, who conveniently forget they had joined Democrats in appropriating the nearly $400 million in aid Trump used as a cudgel in his extortion scheme, are alternately whining that the inquiry is unfairly partisan with presidential poodle Senator Lindsey Graham refusing to read deeply damaging witness transcripts, while trying to front load the witness list.
Through extraneous witnesses, Republicans hope to sow confusion and flog their discredited conspiracy theories, which includes beating the dead-horse canard that Ukraine and not Russia hacked Democratic emails in 2016, and characterizing Ukraine as an historically corrupt nation that the most corrupt president in American history is only trying to reform (!!!).
Then there is their attempt to shift blame from Trump onto a rogues gallery of individuals including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland and fixer Rudy Giuliani, whom they ludicrously claim were pursuing their own objectives while the poor president stood haplessly by. This must be the reason there was a secret White House server on which to hide documents damaging to Trump, no?
The 2,677 pages of interview transcripts released over the past week show the extent to which GOP lawmakers, lacking the witnesses and documents to mount a defense that might undermine the withering testimony, have focused on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories when not muttering to reporters that what the president did might not have been advisable but is not impeachable. Or in the words of feckless GOP Representative Mac Thornberry, you can't impeach Trump for a crime he does "all the time."
Yes, Republicans are fully involved in the hearings even if they're trying to create the impression that they are not, and their questioning of witnesses has been short on substance while long on those pet theories.
The contrast could not be more evident than during the deposition of William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who blew apart Trump's Ukraine defense in damning detail. When it was the Republicans' turn to depose Taylor, they did not ask a single question of substance.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that one GOP lawmaker questioned fired Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovich about her national heritage, including a suggestion her nickname Masha is Ukrainian (it's Russian, just like she is) in a fruitless attempt to find bias, and another interrogated her about whether her staff "monitored" the social media account of an alt-right conspiracy theorist whose main claim to fame is smearing a Washington pizzeria as the site of a fictional Democratic pedophile ring in which Hillary Clinton was involved.
Pretty much all of this is, of course, is ancillary to the Ukraine scandal and impeachment inquiry, which explains why Republicans also want to call a researcher for the firm that commissioned the Steele dossier linking Trump and Russia in an attempt to manufacture a nonexistent connection between the dossier and Ukraine.
The reliably wingnutty Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, argues that witnesses such as Biden and Archer would "assist the American public in understanding the nature and extent of Ukraine’s pervasive corruption, information that bears directly on President Trump's long-standing and deeply-held skepticism of the country."
Intel chairman Adam Schiff says Democrats would evaluate the witness requests but his committee "will not serve . . . as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President's effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm."
Complicating Republican attempts to shift the focus away from Trump is the ongoing trial a few blocks from the Capitol of fellow liar and longest of longtime confidants Roger Stone, an intermediary between the 2016 Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released thousands of Democratic email messages hacked by Russians.
Trump’s presidency has been defined by his belief that he cannot be held accountable.
This grossest of fictions has been abetted by Republicans whose fealty to the Chosen One is more important than obeying their oath to uphold the Constitution by acting as a check on the executive branch and the president's many abuses of power.
The frenzy of lemonade making is playing out as courts hear a seemingly inexhaustible list of legal cases stemming from Trump's stonewalling. Some may end up before a Supreme Court that won't necessarily be friendly to the president despite its right-leaning bent. Then there is the possibility that his frantic efforts to sabotage the impeachment process will themselves become an article of impeachment.
While the Republican divert-and-delay tactic is likely to work in the Fox News echo chamber and ratchet even higher the partisan rancor on Capitol Hill, it fails miserably as a defense. Minds are made up: Republicans will defend Trump at all costs, but a majority of voters favor impeachment and removing him from office.
Let's get on with it.