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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


#EndorseThis: Jimmy Kimmel Watches The Impeachment Hearings

As you might expect, Jimmy Kimmel has been watching the impeachment inquiry proceedings on Capitol Hill. His initial conclusion? “There is no sentence more depressing than ‘The chair now recognizes Devin Nunes for 45 minutes.’” By turns dour and lunatic, the California Republican is indeed difficult to endure, but far more is going on than his conspiracy theorizing.

As Kimmel notes, we saw Ambassador Kurt Volker, touching up his previous testimony to bring it in line with the facts. And there was national security aide Tim Morrison, offering a dubious explanation for why that notorious July 25 call with the president of Ukraine somehow ended up in a Top Secret file. (You won’t believe it either.)

This scandal is getting more serious, and funnier too. Just click.

Is GOP Witness List For Impeachment Inquiry ‘A Cry For Help’?

House Republicans’ request for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry reads more like a “cry for help” than an actual contribution to the investigation into President Donald Trump’s conduct, argued MSNBC’s Steve Benen.

He’s not wrong. The list includes:

  • The whistleblower
  • “All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint”
  • Hunter Biden
  • Devon Archer, a business associate of Hunter Biden
  • Nellie Ohr of Fusion GPS, which directed the work behind the Steele Dossier
  • Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee employee who reportedly conducted research on Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine

Not one of these people will have information that could exonerate Trump from the mountain of evidence indicating he oversaw a vast bribery scheme aimed at pressuring the Ukrainian government into smearing and opening up investigations into his political rivals. At best, they could serve to distract from that central narrative, which documents and comments from the White House and Trump himself confirm. Creating a distraction is, of course, exactly what Republicans intend to do since they have no substantive defense of the president’s actions.

“This is not a list compiled by officials who are serious about the inquiry,” noted Benen.

Of course, Republicans don’t expect House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) to comply with these requests. Without Schiff’s assent, the full committee can vote on whether to summon a witness, but the Democratically controlled committee is likely to stand by the chair. The point isn’t to have these people testify — though Republicans would certainly to the hearings into a chaotic and accusatory mess if they did — but to claim the process is rigged against them when GOP requests are denied.

But as the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin pointed out, the list itself is essentially an admission that the testimony thus far has been accurate. They’ve essentially stipulated “to every fact about which the witnesses testified under oath” by making no effort to refute the claims, she said.

Republicans did include requests for witnesses who are relevant to the matter at hand:

  • David Hale, under secretary of state for political affairs
  • Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council staffer focused on Russia (and a long-time Republican staffer)
  • Kurt Volker, a former U.S. envoy to Ukraine

These witnesses would at least likely have testimony relevant to the case at hand. But Morrison and Volker, though sympathetic to the president, have largely corroborated the case against him. Republicans like Morrison because he said he didn’t think Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was illegal — which is hardly a dispositive claim. It’s not clear how Hale would help the Republicans’ case, either. According to the AP, he planned to tell Congress that “political considerations were behind the agency’s refusal to deliver a robust defense of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine” and that “the State Department worried about the reaction from Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was one of the strongest advocates for removing the ambassador.”

And Politico’s Kyle Cheney astutely observed that two names that Republicans had previously named as witnesses they’d like to see testify weren’t on the list given to Schiff:

  • Victoria Nuland former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department
  • Geoffrey Pyatt, a former Ukraine ambassador

This suggests that they’ve concluded that the testimony of these individuals would also likely not help their case.

Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, too, doesn’t appear on the list, and it’s not clear he’ll testify for the Democrats, either. This is a particularly glaring omission because Republicans initially used Sondland’s own words to claim that there had been no quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine. But Sondland since undermined this defense when he revised his testimony and said that, in fact, he personally gave the Ukrainians an ultimatum: they would only get their military aid from the U.S. if they announced the investigations Trump wanted. He may have even perjured himself already. This would make him a pretty unreliable witness for Trump defenders.

Republicans Demand Hunter Biden, Whistleblower Testify At Hearings


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

House Republicans, in their ever-increasing efforts to disrupt congressional impeachment proceedings, have thrown one more curveball into the mix. They now want to have the whistleblower, an intelligence community official who has asked for anonymity, and Hunter Biden, the son of the Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, to their list of witnesses to testify in open, public, televised impeachment inquiry hearings, according to The Washington Post.

Democrats, who hold the House majority, are expected to overrule the request.

Intelligence Committee Ranking Republican Devin Nunes sent an embarrassingly facetious threat with the GOP’s request.

“We expect that you will call each of the witnesses listed above to ensure that the Democrats’ ‘impeachment inquiry’ treats the President with fairness, as promised by Speaker Pelosi,” Nunes warned, clearly aware the request was likely to be denied. “Your failure to fulfill Minority witness requests shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process.”

IMAGE: House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Trump Stokes Resentment — And Now The Feeling Is Mutual

If there’s one thing Americans understand, it’s TV cop shows. So here’s the deal: Donald J. Trump isn’t on trial, he’s under investigation. And the first thing that happens during any serious probe is that detectives question witnesses separately so they can’t cook their testimony.

If Perp A can’t be sure exactly what Perp B is saying, there’s a better chance of getting a straight story.

Just about everybody with a TV set understands these things.

So it’s hard to imagine who that flash-mob of Republican Congressmen thought they were kidding by storming the U.S. Capitol secure room where witnesses are being questioned in the House impeachment inquiry. According to them, confidential Congressional hearings constitute an unprecedented star chamber proceeding. Supposedly, only Democrats were allowed to participate; Trump was being denied his constitutional right to an attorney, to cross-examine witnesses, or to examine the evidence against him.

In a word, Trump was being railroaded.

In reality, none of that is true. Indeed, about half those indignant GOP Congressmen were playing hooky from their duties as members of the very committees—Intelligence, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, etc.—conducting the inquiry. They could have been in the hearing room questioning witnesses, if they had any questions to ask. Instead, they staged a publicity stunt for TV cameras.

Do they take their constituents for fools?

Apparently so.

Meanwhile, on Fox News, Sean Hannity promised to expose “something corrupt and dangerous to this democratic republic that we love. We will expose on this program the Democrats’ top-secret, the Soviet-style impeachment coup attempt…an unprecedented unconstitutional attempt to nullify the will of the American people.”

This is all but delusional. The U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives sole authority over impeaching the president, and says very little about exactly how. Hannity never did say what was unconstitutional about it, except as the word means “something I really, really don’t like.”

House Republicans, of course, held hundreds of hours of confidential Benghazi hearings during the Obama administration, without finding much to illuminate the tragedy beyond what was already known.

On Meet the Press back in 2015, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy explained the advantage of closed-door hearings. Largely because there’s less grandstanding and bickering among politicians, he said, “the private ones always produce better results.”

Democrats thought Republicans were mainly blowing smoke, but never challenged their constitutional authority to do so.

Remember when Hillary Clinton appeared under oath before Gowdy’s committee for eleven straight hours all by her lonesome? Assuming that the House votes to impeach Trump, he’ll have the benefit of his full constitutional rights—an opportunity to contest all the evidence against him, to have all the lawyers he wants, and to cross-examine witnesses.

Just like any defendant on Law and Order.

For that matter, remember when Bill Clinton testified before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury regarding his naughty activities with Monica Lewinsky? They broadcast the thing on national TV, inadvertently increasing sympathy for the big dope and pretty much dooming their chances to remove him. Not that it was Clinton’s finest moment.

But that won’t be an issue for President Trump, who—you read it here first—will never testify under oath, come hell or high water. He has the constitutional right to take the Fifth Amendment, and surely he will.

What, then, will Trump’s defense consist of?

So far, of maligning the honor and patriotism of witnesses, career public servants, and combat veterans alike, who have blown the whistle on his Ukraine extortion plot. That’s essentially all he’s got. Along with teaching adepts of the Trump cult to detest domestic political opponents he calls “human scum.”

Over the weekend, Trump explained why he notified his great friend Russian dictator Vladimir Putin about the impending raid against ISIS mass-murderer Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while keeping Nancy Pelosi in the dark.

The Speaker of the House, third in line for the presidency, who has participated in more Top Secret hearings than almost any living American, was deemed untrustworthy by this blowhard, who—were he not president—could no more earn a security clearance than he could dunk a basketball.

Americans have grown so accustomed to Trump’s contumelious behavior that this isn’t even surprising. He’s essentially a WWE professional wrestling shill in a baggy blue suit. Here’s a clue: Any Trump statement that begins with “people are saying” or “Sir” means what follows will be sheer malicious fiction. He’s got a substantial proportion of Americans at each other’s throats.

Jonathan Rauch puts it this way in National Affairs: “Trump’s appeals to ethnic and racial resentment, his portrayals of a country and culture under siege, and his populist demonization of multiple enemies offered Republicans something more appealing than any particular list of policies: They offered solidarity against a threat.”

It was left to a Washington World Series crowd to respond in kind: “Lock him up!” they chanted.

You see, the feeling’s mutual.