If Dr. Hill and Sondland’s Testimony Didn’t Move The GOP, Nothing Will

After weeks of testimony revealing overwhelming evidence that Trump extorted Ukraine for personal gain, Republicans refuse to hold him accountable.
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., talks to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, as Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, center listens during the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., talks to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, as Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, center listens during the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up the public phase of impeachment hearings. Did Republican members of the committee consider viable, corroborated witness testimonies? Did indisputable facts pierce their impenetrable, fact-averse, party-line shield? Democratic voters hoped that meaningful evidence might soften the GOP’s unrelenting desire to protect a divisive, transparently corrupt President.

They hoped that this small group of people could be swayed. Maybe a few well placed, accurately fired arrows of truth would penetrate the GOP’s see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, psychological armor. Maybe the right witness would inspire open-minded circumspection. Perhaps new information from reliable sources and corroborated data that effectively challenged Donald Trump’s laughably absurd, exculpatory narrative would break through.

It didn’t happen. Republicans on the committee couldn’t, wouldn’t, hear it. Perceptibly intolerant, they would not step far enough away from despising their Democratic colleagues. They couldn’t clear the divisive, loathing, partisan cobwebs long enough to absorb the information presented to them. They simply detest Democrats more than they cherish the values that they claim to represent.

These people are not blind nor are they stupid. They are blinded and they are stupefied.

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They’re blinded by a red hot, “own the libs” anger, a simmering, partisan frustration that, with the help of Donald Trump has devolved into boiling rage.

They’ve been stupified by an emotionally unstable madman who literally fell into the Presidency. Trump was just racist enough, angry enough, corrupt enough, and vile enough to achieve an electoral majority out of a minority victory. He was then charismatic enough to hypnotize nearly all GOP members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate. The few who consciously resisted his powers of delusion, one by one, opted out of office and into a coward’s version of congressional retirement.

I really hoped that the impeachment hearings might have shaken a few of the committee’s GOP members back to their senses. Unfortunately, it only made them worse. It made them double down.

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Republicans Heard The Witnesses But Closed Their Ears To The Truth

Elise Stefanik (R), a young, sharp, aggressive, freshman Congresswoman from New York, at one time, seemed like she might be the GOP’s voice of reason. Not any more. She went full-on, Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory in the hearings and subsequently received praise and adulation from the President (which is always temporary and conditional). She now thinks that she’s on the fast-track to Conservative stardom. The crazier you act, the more you achieve. That is until Trump turns on you, or you cease being useful, or regrettably, you fail to display the proper sense of loyalty.

Hopeful speculations that Congressmen Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) might, at least, consider reasonable lines of discourse and rational lines of questioning were quickly put to rest.

Nunes was the former Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. His well documented, sometimes off the wall behavior has been questionable since the very beginning of the Trump administration. A former member of the Trump transition team, one wonders what inspires Nunes’ intentions. In 2017 he clandestinely scampered about the White House grounds in the wee hours of the morning to deliver damning evidence of President Obama’s effort to wiretap candidate Trump. We later found out that he received the non-evidentiary, White House deliverable from the White House. It was a crazy story, almost too asinine to believe. Except, Nunes proudly told us all about it.

The ranking Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, Nunes spent most of his extended cross-examination efforts rattling on about nonsensical, debunked, 2016 election, conspiracy theories.

Jim Jordan, forever avoiding the college wrestling molestation cover-up scandal, and seemingly incapable of wearing his suit jacket, seemed well beyond the reach of any common sense testimony and beyond the reach of any common sense period. Jordan ineffectively used each of his five-minute questioning sessions to speak very quickly and very loudly.

Congressman John Ratcliffe, a true believer in the teachings of the Trump cult, is probably still vying for a White House job that he was already denied. And why not? The job still hasn’t been filled. Former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats resigned over five months ago.

Even though Ratcliffe’s aggressive, disjointed efforts to discredit the witnesses failed, his full-throated declarations of incurious, Trumpian loyalty may have put him back in the running for a job he’s never going to get.

What about other conservative legislators on the committee? Did Thursday’s testimony of former National Security Official and unimpeachable witness, Fiona Hill, make the slightest impression on Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) or Mike Turner (R-OH)?

Hill was remarkably credible. Sure, she corroborated preceding witness testimony that “Burisma is code for the Bidens”. She also told Republicans on the Committee that the Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory they were pushing comes straight from the Kremlin. But, she also told the Committee that segments of Congressman Wenstrup’s absurdist rant about a “Democrat coup” weren’t crazy. Hill said, “I think that what Dr. Wenstrup said is very powerful.” Granted, Dr. Hill didn’t validate Wenstrup’s paranoid coup d’é·tat, but she did throw the Congressman a rational lifeline. You would think he might have appreciated the gesture.

Wenstrup complained that Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) allowed Hill to respond to his rant and then sat, stone-faced, arms crossed, lips puckered while she spoke eloquently.

Instead of asking any substantive questions Congressman Turner spent his five minutes “mansplaining” the notion of hearsay to Dr. Hill.

What about EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony? He’s one of their own. He’s a rich, Republican businessman who paid a million dollars to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration. He bought himself an Ambassadorship.

Sondland said, in no uncertain terms: “Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is, yes.” Surely, some of the distinguished, GOP members of the committee would take his word or it? Right? No.

In fairness, Sondland is a dubious character. He spent most of his public testimony searching for ways to cover his uncomfortably exposed derriére. Nonetheless, he clearly said that there was not just a quid pro quo, but it was an evolving matter of concern. Sondland also brought email receipts to verify his claims.

Weeks before his televised appearance before the committee Sondland testified inaccurately behind closed doors. Less than forthcoming in his deposition, he amended his testimony just days before the public hearing. He had to. Subsequent deposed witnesses testified that there was a quid pro quo. Sondland had to change his statement and tell his censored version of the truth to avoid criminal exposure. Lying to Congress is a crime.

Surely, some members of the GOP could see that?

No. Not one, not even retiring, supposedly moderate Congressman Will Hurd (D-TX). Even Mr. Hurd didn’t have the backbone or moral clarity to hold a President that is a danger to himself and the nation accountable. Although Hurd criticized President Trump’s actions he said, “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

Unfortunately, there was no breaking through. The cult of Donald Trump is a powerful, political aphrodisiac. Corruption-in-plain-sight is the Republican Party’s bureaucratic opioid crisis and they are hopelessly addicted to it.

It’s as if nothing matters. There is no fact that is factual enough. There are no witnesses who are credible enough. There is nothing that Trump can do, no abominable transgression that he can perpetuate that would encourage this distorted, self-destructive transmigration of the Republican party to hold him to account.

The foundational principle of our Democracy is at risk and it shouldn’t be. The stability of the rule of law is in grave danger. If Democrats draft articles of impeachment and the Senate holds a mock trial, replete with conspiratorial testimony cooked up by a vengeful, corrupt, former Ukranian official and disseminated to the President by Rudy Guiliani, we have a problem. If the Trump is then exonerated by the Senate he will certainly commit his next, more dubious crime as quickly as possible…assuming he hasn’t done so already.

Lastly, many of the Republicans who have gone off the deep end are better than this, or they were better than this. For reasons that I still don’t fully understand they have subjugated themselves to the will of a transparently inept, incompetent, slapstick version of a supervillain. It’s difficult to watch. It’s sad.

Opinion // Devin Nunes / Donald Trump / Impeachment / Jim Jordan / Republican Party