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Impeachment Hearing Republicans Confirm There Is No Defense for Donald Trump

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What made the first public hearing of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry so remarkable was how concisely and effectively it answered the question posed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff in his opening remarks: “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Senior US officials painted a picture of an American president who abused his position in order to undermine a domestic political rival, former vice president Joseph Biden. William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, recounted a conversation with US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which Sondland said that Trump “cared more about investigations of Biden” than about maintaining responsible relations with Ukraine. Later, when he was asked about evidence that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine as part of his political scheme, Taylor told the committee that “our holding up of security assistance that would go to a country that is fighting aggression from Russia for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, no good national security reason is wrong.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent was asked, “Is pressuring Ukraine to conduct what I believe you’ve called political investigations a part of US foreign policy to promote the rule of law?” Kent replied, “It is not.”

Then came the essential question: “Is it in the national interests of the United States?”

“In my opinion,” said Kent, “it is not.”

This was devastating testimony, which affirmed the damning evidence of presidential wrongdoing that led to the impeachment inquiry. If Trump was using his office to advance his own political agenda, and if he were doing so in a manner that was in conflict with the national interest, then he was committing precisely the high crimes and misdemeanors that the founders feared when they established the impeachment power.

By any measure, what transpired was bad news for the president—who claimed he wasn’t paying attention to the proceedings but then tweeted madly about them.

So how did the president’s chief defender on the committee, California Republican Devin Nunes, respond to Schiff, and to the mounting evidence against Donald Trump? Not by defending his party’s president as an honorable and responsible leader, but, rather, by ranting about “a three-year-long operation by the Democrats, the corrupt media, and partisan bureaucrats to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election” and dismissing the mounting evidence against Trump as the product of “a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”

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