This didn’t help the Democrats at all.
Maybe the idea of calling an aide to Vice President Mike Pence at Tuesday’s “impeachment inquiry” hearing seemed like a good way to hit the Trump White House.
Maybe it seemed, to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, like a way to make an accusation of presidential “bribery” hit home for the American public.
But when Pence aide Jennifer Williams was asked a crucial question, her response didn’t do that at all.
In fact, it was just the opposite.
According to Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner, Williams testified that she was present during a Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky had learned through news reports that there had been a hold on military aid, Klein wrote, and stressed to Pence the importance of Russia understanding that Ukraine was backed by the United States in its long-running military standoff with Russia.
Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman used that background to ask a question Democrats were no doubt hoping would provide the killer answer they were looking for:
“Did Vice President Pence provide a reason for the hold on security assistance to the Ukrainian president in that meeting?” Goldman asked.
Williams’ response had to be deflating.
“The vice president did not specifically discuss the reason behind the hold, but he did reassure President Zelensky of the strongest U.S. unwavering support for Ukraine, and they talked about the need for European countries to step up and provide more assistance to Ukraine as well,” she said.
Counsel: “Did Vice President Pence provide a reason for the hold on security assistance to the Ukrainian president in that meeting?”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 19, 2019
Note that Williams did not say anything about former Vice President Joe Biden or the fact that Biden’s son, Hunter, had taken a controversial — and highly lucrative — job on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
Note that Williams said nothing about how U.S. military aid to Ukraine would depend on that country’s willingness to investigate the Bidens.
Instead, whether she intended to or not, she reiterated statements President Donald Trump has often made in public about the need for European countries to take more responsibility for security on the continent.
The problem this presents for Democrats is obvious.
According to Klein, the Pence-Zelensky meeting came on the same day that the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, met with a Zelensky aide to say Trump wanted a public commitment from Ukraine that the Bidens would be investigated before the military aid would be released.
And yet, in a meeting with Zelensky, the vice president himself spoke only of the United States’ determination to support Ukraine.
As disappointing as it might have been to Democratic zealots determined to view Trump’s activities in the most sinister light — and to portray them that way to the American public — Williams’ testimony was more or less what an outside observer might have expected.
Throughout his entire time in the White House, Trump has spoken of the need for European countries to do more for their own defense instead of relying on the United States.
According to Williams’ testimony, Pence’s statements at that Sept. 1 meeting with the Ukrainian president simply reaffirmed that position.
The “impeachment inquiry” hearings have a long way to go, of course, and there’s no telling what might turn up in future testimony.
But for that moment in time, with an aide to the vice president of the United States answering a crucial question under oath, whatever Democrats might have been hoping for, they got no help at all.
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