If you wanted to know why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff and the Democrats wanted an impeachment inquiry that wasn’t actually voted on by the full House and didn’t actually contain any of the norms that any other impeachment inquiry had — open hearings, subpoena power for everyone — Tuesday should have provided the goods.
From all accounts, Ukrainian envoy William Taylor’s testimony was a brutal hit for Donald Trump and his administration. Most media outlets seemed to take it as prima facie evidence of a quid pro quo. “An Envoy’s Damning Account of Trump’s Ukraine Pressure and Its Consequences,” The New York Times’ headline declared.
The Times had Taylor’s opening statement. It mentioned all of the high points, at least as far as they were concerned: the fact that he said that military aid was being held up unless the Ukrainians agreed to investigations into Burisma and a dodgy theory about the DNC email hack originating from Ukraine, the fact that Taylor claimed there were “two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular” in Ukraine, the fact that the latter channel was run by presidential attorney Rudolph Giuliani.
“Mr. Taylor’s vivid depiction illustrated the differences between the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump and the ones that consumed Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. While the Watergate and Monica Lewinsky cover-ups involved the integrity of America’s democracy and system of justice, the Ukraine scandal also extends to matters of life and death, as well as geopolitics on a grand scale,” The Times reported.
“Mr. Taylor’s testimony could make it harder for Republicans to brush off Mr. Trump’s actions as unimportant or distorted by partisan rivals. Defending Ukraine against Russian encroachment, much like defending the United States’ Kurdish allies against Turkey, has been a high priority for many Republicans, who complained that President Barack Obama did not stand up to Moscow aggressively enough.”
This was smoking gun-type stuff, at least from the sound of things. And The Times was hardly alone here.
The thing is, nobody had actually listened to the testimony, particularly any questions that were asked of the former diplomat. And, given the strictures of the closed-door hearings, there’s a limited amount of stuff that could be discussed.
That’s rather important when you consider the fact that the House minority leader says that Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe was able to “destroy” Taylor’s narrative of a quid pro quo “[i]n 90 seconds.”
Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show on Tuesday night after Taylor’s testimony, California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy said that the media’s narrative didn’t match what actually happened in the hearing earlier in the day.
“Adam Schiff won’t let us talk about what happened,” McCarthy said on “The Ingraham Angle.” “There is no quid pro quo.”
But, as the House minority leader noted, there’s literally no way for a transcript to escape the watchful eye of Schiff or the Democrats.
“What’s happening in the Intel committee today, even the members on the committee — the Republicans — cannot read any information unless one of Adam Schiff’s own staffers are in the room next to them,” he said.
“The one thing that you find out in this process is all this information is just like that whistleblower,” McCarthy told Ingraham. “Everything is second-, third- and fourth-hand information.”
“They go out to the press and say Taylor is terrible and Adam Schiff won’t let us talk about what happened. In 90 seconds, we had [Texas GOP Rep.] John Ratcliffe destroy his whole argument. We are finding just his questioning refuted everything of what Adam Schiff leaves out there; there is no quid pro quo.”
By the way, McCarthy was hardly the only Republican claiming the media’s coverage of Taylor’s testimony had wildly overestimated the damage it had done to the president’s cause.
“The leaks out of today’s witness interview have been laughably overblown and don’t tell the full story,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted.
“Still no evidence of quid pro quo. Much of the statement and hearsay allegations didn’t hold up against any real scrutiny. The full transcript should be released immediately.”
The leaks out of today’s witness interview have been laughably overblown and don’t tell the full story
Still no evidence of quid pro quo. Much of the statement and hearsay allegations didn’t hold up against any real scrutiny.
The FULL transcript should be released immediately
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) October 23, 2019
“Spent another entire day in Schiff’s super-secret bunker in the Capitol basement for Amb Taylor’s [deposition],” Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York tweeted.
“This transcript should be released ASAP along [with] all of the other transcripts. Much of his leaked opening statement collapsed, but Schiff keeps the public in the dark on that!”
Spent another entire day in Schiff’s super secret bunker in the Capitol basement for Amb Taylor’s depo. This transcript should be released ASAP along w ALL of the other transcripts. Much of his leaked opening statement collapsed, but Schiff keeps the public in the dark on that!?
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) October 23, 2019
All of this brings up a good point: If this is so damning, why haven’t the transcripts been released?
For all we know, this was indeed every bit as bad as Democrats and the media are saying it is.
All right, then. Where’s the transcript?
Like in past impeachment inquiries, of course, all of this should have been conducted in public.
If Taylor had indeed been destroyed, we’d have seen it on television. If he’d destroyed the president, we’d have seen that, too.
Instead, what we have is the political equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat. As long as you don’t open the box, it could be impeachable or it could be nothing.
That’s not how any of this is supposed to work, though.
An impeachment inquiry isn’t just a fast-track to articles of impeachment, designed to elicit the maximum amount of explosive media coverage with the maximum amount of secrecy and control.
Yet, that’s what we have — and for some reason, we have people openly wondering why there remain conservative doubters.
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