Accumulating evidence of impeachable offenses by President Donald J. Trump, based on available documents and witness testimony, is overwhelming. It began with the July 25 “transcript” he urged us all to read in which he responds to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s entreaty for more military assistance by asking for those two “favors.” Officials described under oath how, under orders from Trump, they were required to pressure the Ukraine government into announcing “investigations” of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and the Democratic National Committee, which did not have to be genuine. And it may yet extend beyond the damning revelations delivered during the past several days before the House Intelligence Committee.
That many Republicans – in and out of Congress – continue to insist that Trump did nothing wrong, or at least that nothing wrong has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or that some of the testimony about Trump’s actions is “hearsay” should surprise nobody. While they accuse Democrats of pursuing a predetermined objective to impeach this president, the reality is precisely the opposite.
Quite typically, their accusation would more accurately be directed at them, since it has been clear all along that they will ignore, discount or simply lie about anything that indicates Trump’s guilty malfeasance. That much has been obvious ever since Republican congressional leaders looked at the July 25 transcript and declared they saw no quid pro quo.
When the Republicans aren’t pretending not to see what is plainly before their eyes, they point toward any bright, shiny object that can distract from the real evidence. Their persistent obsession with the whistleblower – the White House staffer who first called attention to this scandal – is a perfect example. They want to name the whistleblower; they want to send Twitter trolls after the whistleblower; they might even like to have the whistleblower publicly tortured or hanged, as urged by Trump himself.
Their fury doesn’t alter basic facts, however: Trump’s own appointed inspector general confirmed the validity and urgency of the whistleblower’s original complaint, and all the evidence has done likewise.
Now Republicans insist that the whistleblower must testify, along with Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and miscellaneous others of dubious relevance. But if they are truly concerned about discovering what part the president played in this fiasco, there is a long list of real witnesses and documents they could demand. It is the same list of witnesses and documents withheld by the White House. And the president himself, having claimed that he wants to testify, has ripped away the fig leaf of executive privilege.
So if the Republicans want more substantial and direct evidence, they should demand the testimony of Mike Pompeo, who has been implicated in the scandal by the testimony of his own subordinates including Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Pompeo allegedly instructed State Department personnel to cooperate in the machinations of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s henchman on Ukraine.
For that matter, they should also demand to hear from Giuliani himself under oath, who claims to be a Trump attorney but has made no court appearances on behalf of the president.
If the Republicans want firsthand proof of who ordered the suspension of military aid to Ukraine – at least until Zelensky promised to smear Biden on cable TV – they should insist on sworn testimony from Mick Mulvaney. The acting chief of staff told the Office of Management and Budget, which he continues to oversee, to withhold that vital assistance from Kiev, without any further explanation, and it did. Surely the Republicans want to know who gave that order.
If the Republicans need additional evidence that Trump pushed this “drug deal,” as former national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the Ukraine bribery and extortion scheme, then they must join the Democrats in urging Bolton to step forward with the truth.
Bolton has always been a dubious figure, dating back to his efforts to help the Reagan administration cover up the Iran-contra scandal. But his failure was cast into sharp relief by the words of Fiona Hill, the former White House Russia expert who spoke up courageously in her own testimony. Like Bill Taylor, George Kent, David Holmes and the other witnesses who came before the committee, she did her duty.
“I believe that those who have information that the Congress deems relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it,” said Hill. She was morally and legally right, of course – and her simple statement should shame every official, both in Congress and the executive branch, still aiding Trump’s obstruction.