With Public Hearings To Start, Republicans Have No Decent Witnesses

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Devin Nunes sent his witness list to Chairman Adam Schiff last week for witnesses he wanted included in the House Impeachment Investigation.

The list includes:

  • Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s business partner
  • Hunter Biden
  • Alexandrea Chalupa, the DNC consultant who conducted oppo research on Manafort [corrected] via non-official sources
  • Undersecretary of State David Hale, who gave a private deposition the details of which have not yet leaked
  • Tim Morrison, the NSC staffer who was on the Trump call but has said (in part because saying anything else would implicate him criminally) nothing he heard was a problem
  • Nellie Ohr, whom Nunes falsely accuses of assisting with the Steele dossier, but who collected oppo research on Trump based off leads which were in turn based off open source research
  • Kurt Volker
  • The whistleblower
  • The whistleblower’s sources

Schiff’s response was to the point:

The idea behind bringing Hunter Biden into the impeachment inquiry is to create a “good faith” defense for Trump. Republicans hope to show that Trump had a reasonable basis to be concerned about Joe Biden’s actions, and that he had legitimate grounds for wanting Zelensky to look into Biden’s alleged corruption. The idea there would be that as long as Trump was acting even in part in the public interest (that is, “fighting corruption”), then any personal benefit that he might receive as a result — say, in the form of election assistance because of a public smear on his potential opponent — is ancillary and irrelevant.

The problem is that Trump’s basic premise undercuts his defense: The “good faith” standard Trump hopes to argue would apply equally to Joe Biden. After all, in calling for Shokin to be fired, Biden was also acting in his official capacity as vice president and carrying out the foreign policy directives of the Obama administration to encourage Ukraine to fight corruption — something that the European Union had already been calling for and welcomed when Ukraine followed through. Biden’s “good faith” is even more evident than Trump’s, since he conducted his actions publicly, through official channels, and in conjunction with international partners. By Trump’s own argument, all of these factors would negate any self-serving benefit to the Bidens that came as a result. In other words, the “good faith” defense concedes that Trump had no reason to ever call for an investigation into the Bidens in the first place.

But that’s giving to much credit to the “good faith” defense to begin with. Ideally, the reason for bringing in Biden is to muddy the waters.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes:

House Republicans acknowledged that they have no witnesses and no documents to dispute the main facts concerning President Trump’s impeachable conduct: a demand from Ukraine for dirt on a political rival; withholding of aid vital to Ukraine’s defense against Russia; concealing evidence of the scheme by moving a transcript to a secret server; and threatening the tipster who alerted Congress to gross malfeasance. They admitted all that? Well, in a manner of speaking they did.


Hunter Biden lacks any direct knowledge of anything that occurred in the Trump White House, and hence he cannot rebut evidence of Trump’s demand that Ukraine interfere with our election. By Republicans’ own admission, the whistleblower lacks first-hand knowledge of events. (“Witnesses who testified out of public view have corroborated the crux of the case against Trump — that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals — so the Democrats see no need for the whistleblower, who heard the story secondhand, to testify. Three career State Department officials are returning next week for the public hearings.”)

All Republicans have are distractions, stunts to generate claims of unfairness, and gimmicks to threaten the life and career of the whistleblower. It’s remarkable, really, that they could stipulate to every fact about which the witnesses testified under oath.

Republicans implicitly admit that there is no disputing Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony. Vindman testified that, in the July 25 call, “there was no doubt” Trump made a demand of the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of a U.S. citizen, a “deliverable” to help his presidential reelection. “When the president of the United States makes a request for a favor, it certainly seems — I would take it as a demand,” Vindman testified. There are apparently no witnesses to contradict his testimony and none to dispute it was of such concern that Vindman went to John Eisenberg, the top national security lawyer in the White House.

Republicans apparently have no evidence to contradict the testimony of Fiona Hill, who served as a top Russia adviser to the White House. She testified that former national security adviser John Bolton, in a meeting following an exchange between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Ukrainian officials that made explicit that any White House meeting was conditioned on an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, “basically said — in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He did make it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.” In other words, the national security adviser knew hijacking foreign policy for Trump’s political gain was wrong and likely illegal.


Sure, in demanding irrelevant witnesses and continuing their campaign of intimidation against the whistleblower, Republicans threaten to make the entire proceeding a three-ring circus, something Schiff will try to prevent. However, it is a helpful reminder that Republicans should be able to stipulate to all of the facts presented by all of the witnesses Schiff has summoned. There is no factual defense to articles of impeachment that would include bribery, extortion and obstruction of justice.

Good to know, and good to know that the Republican Party stands foursquare behind a president soliciting a bribe, endangering U.S. national security and attempting to intimidate witnesses and cover his tracks.

This scandal is over an month old and Republicans have yet to coalesce around a solid defense to the extortion. That can’t be good.