Opinion Republicans have a new enemy: Truth itself
5 things to look for as public hearings begin in the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump
Here are five things to look for as the House Intelligence Committee begins public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump , on Oct. 30. 19/73 SLIDES © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images Christopher Anderson (C), a State Department employee arrives for a closed-door deposition at the US Capitol, on Oct. 30. 20/73 SLIDES © Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to reporters outside the House Intelligence Committee SCIF as U.S.
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At its core, President Trump’s defense in these impeachment proceedings is not a dispute over the facts of the case, the credibility of the witnesses or the motives of Democrats.
Historic impeachment hearings are set to begin, with GOP and Democrats pushing dueling messages on Trump’s conduct
The two parties signaled how they planned to present radically different interpretations of the president’s actions and whether they were impeachable. Democrats expressed confidence that Wednesday’s hearing would begin a serious and somber process of publicly exposing Trump’s misconduct, narrated by career diplomats who were alarmed by the president’s push to have Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as a debunked theory concerning the 2016 election, in exchange for military aid and a White House visit coveted by Ukraine’s new leader.
It is a bid to discredit the truth itself.
The Ukraine escapade began, in large part, because Trump pursuedthat Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election to bring about his defeat, a false notion spread by Vladimir Putin and ultimately — with the help of Rudy Giuliani and others — embraced by the president himself.
But to defend Trump, a number of Republicans have concluded that they must establish that he had good reason to believe Ukraine was, in fact, out to get him. They must defend the Putin-planted conspiracy theory.
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“Some government officials opposed President Trump’s approach to Ukraine but many had no idea what concerned him,”Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and the principal proponent of this view. “It was numerous indications of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election to oppose his campaign and support Hillary Clinton. Once you know that, it’s easy to understand the president’s desire to get to the bottom of this.”
But on Thursday morning, that defense: Fiona Hill, a Russia expert from the National Security Council who had a front-row seat to the administration’s shenanigans in Kyiv and who used her impeachment testimony to denounce the whackadoodle theory.
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” she testified in the accent of her native northern England. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
Movie nights, baseball, phone calls: How Trump is boosting GOP unity in impeachment inquiry
President Donald Trump has been working to keep congressional Republicans united, inviting them to high-profile events and movie nights.In every direction from his box seat at the World Series last month, as the Washington Nationals faced off against the Houston Astros, there sat a Republican who has been outspoken in defense of the president over the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats.
She continued, at length: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”
Nunes, who had read Hill’s written testimony,before she delivered it. It’s not true, he said, that “some committee members deny that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.”
No? Exactly 71 seconds earlier, Nunes had referred to the matter as the “Russia hoax.”
The attempt to shift blame to Ukraine has been a daily refrain for Nunes. Democrats “turned a blind eye to Ukrainians meddling in our elections,” he said, ignoring “an election meddling scheme with Ukrainian officials on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.”
It appears Nunes may have had a hand in shaping Trump’s view, too. Hill, during her deposition, said Kash Patel, a former Nunes staffer who joined the White House, apparently shared information with Trump about Ukraine — so much so that TrumpPatel was the NSC’s Ukraine director. Hill said “it alarmed everybody.”
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After Politicoon the deposition ( has since been released), Patel on Monday filed a $25 million against the news outlet. His lawyer is the same one who has represented Nunes in a variety of lawsuits against some 60 people and entities — including various journalists, news organizations and a pretending to be Devin Nunes’s cow — that Nunes believes have done him wrong.
Nunesa broader campaign against the media, saying they “lurch from the Russia hoax to the Ukraine hoax at the direction of their puppet masters.”
Among Nunes’s pieces of evidence implicating Ukraine: an op-ed critical of Trump by a Ukrainian ambassador; a former DNC official who worked with Ukrainian officials “to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign”; and support by some Ukrainian officials for Hillary Clinton. Another allegation, offered by Trump in his now-infamoushas Ukraine harboring a secret Democratic server.
Hill, during her testimony, dismissed the server fantasy. Though critical of Ukrainian officials who disparaged Trump, she explained that “many officials from many countries” did the same, and the Ukrainian detractors appeared to be individuals, unlike Russia’s top-down assault.
Nunes didn’t challenge Hill directly on Ukraine, instead taking a detour into Fusion GPS, the Steele dossier and other recurring elements of the fever dream he shares at each hearing. Apparently, he didn’t want to go toe to toe with her on what she called “politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
Trump opens up Camp David as an ‘adult playground’ to woo GOP lawmakers during impeachment
The weekend getaways are part of a broader White House charm offensive aimed at keeping House and Senate Republicans in line during the impeachment inquiry.Since then, Mulvaney and top White House officials have hosted weekend getaways for Republicans at the historic lodge, seeking to butter up Republicans before the big impeachment vote. The casual itinerary includes making s’mores over the campfire, going hiking, shooting clay pigeons and schmoozing with Trump officials, some of whom stay overnight with lawmakers.
“The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today,” she said. “Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned.”
And Devin Nunes fights, with all his might, for a fiction.
Interested in following Dana Milbank’s take on the impeachment inquiry?
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Impeachment hearings go live on TV with first witnesses .
The closed doors of the Trump impeachment investigation are swinging wide open. When the gavel strikes at the start of the House hearing Wednesday morning, America and the rest of the world will have the chance to see and hear for themselves for the first time about President Donald Trump's actions toward Ukraine and consider whether they are, in fact, impeachable offenses. It's a remarkable moment, even for a White House full of them.
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