Gradually, methodically, and sometimes painfully slowly the testimony provided in the public impeachment hearings destroyed GOP talking points. For a good summary, check out the closing remarks by Committee Chairman Adam Schiff in this youtube video. Below are my brief reactions to those talking points.
Ukrainians got their call, got a meeting, and got the funds for military assistance so no problem
This was essentially the argument that Jim Jordan, the Ohio brawler whom the Republicans drafted onto the Intelligence Committee to soften up the witnesses, put forward when he got to question Sondland. “They get the call, they get the meeting, they get the money,” Jordan said. “It’s not two plus two—it’s 0 for three.” Regardless of its value as a sound bite, this dismissive line won’t suffice for Republican senators facing tough reëlection contests, and there are quite a few of them apart from Tillis; Susan Collins, of Maine; Cory Gardner, of Colorado; Martha McSally, of Arizona; and Joni Ernst, of Iowa. On the subject of impeachment, all of these Republicans were conspicuously silent on Wednesday.
Adam Schiff, in his closing remarks on Thursday, trashed that argument. The Watergate burglars did not get what they were after, so does that make them innocent of any crime? The “no harm, no foul” defense does not work for another reason. The freeze was lifted but only after lots of press attention. The fact that there was a freeze, for as yet officially unexplained reasons, shook the confidence of a valuable ally.
The Ukrainians did not know about the freeze on the assistance
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of Donald Trump’s fiercest defenders, appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation earlier this week and pushed one of his party’s favorite talking points. Referencing the July 25 phone meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the Republican pressured his counterpart to participate in a political scheme, the Ohio congressman took aim at a foundational element of the controversy.
“The Ukrainians didn’t know that their aid was held at the time of the call,” Jordan said. The Ohioan made related points during yesterday’s hearing with Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
However, Benen calls our attention to evidence that the Ukrainians did know about Trump’s freeze at least by the time of the July 25 phone call. “Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, testified as part of Congress’ impeachment inquiry and explained that Ukraine did, in fact, know about the White House’s hold.”
This line of attack emphasizes supposed unreliability of 2nd-hand information. But fact witnesses from the National Security Council Jennifer Williams, Adviser to Vice President for Europe and Russia, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Top Ukraine expert were on the July 25 call when Trump made his ask of Zelenskyy (“for a favor though”). That’s no longer hearsay.
The President denies quid pro quo
This is the “I am not a crook” defense. Trump claimed “no quid pro quo.” The problem is that Ambassador Sondland testified under oath that, according to Politico, It was no secret’: Sondland says Trump ordered Ukraine pressure campaign.. “Was there a ’quid pro quo?’” he said. “The answer is yes.”
Russia is innocent, the Ukrainians did it
What’s still being touted, by Devin Nunez, for example, is the claim that (1) the Russians did not meddle in the 2016 election to support Trump, but that (2) the Ukrainians meddled to support Clinton. Balderdash! This is 100% fog designed to confuse us all. Arizona Blue Meanie explains how that theory is totally wrong in Republican star witnesses blow up GOP conspiracy theories, implicate Trump. See also the opening statement from Dr. Fiona Hill.
Finally, it comes down to whether Republicans will accept facts and evidence.
Steve Benen observes that, “As every pro-Trump talking point gradually implodes, I can only assume the president and his cohorts will soon be reduced to saying that evidence is no longer relevant at all.”
Adam Schiff made a similar observation in his applauded closing speech on Thursday.