Impeachment! premiered Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. This Adam Schiff production was no boffo hit. The show’s co-stars failed to shine. Far worse, senior State Department official George Kent and Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor repeatedly sandbagged Democrats’ rationale for booting President Donald J. Trump offstage.
• Citing Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, Representative John Ratcliffe (R – Texas) asked the two witnesses, “Where is the impeachable offense in that call?”
Taylor and Kent blinked silently at Ratcliffe.
“Shout it out,” Ratcliffe encouraged them. “Anyone?”
• Wednesday’s testimony reflected hearsay and second- and third-hand information. In other words, rumors and gossip.
As Taylor said: “What I can do here for you today is tell you what I heard from people.”
The relentless, scalpel-sharp Representative Jim Jordan (R – Ohio) demonstrated exactly why Republican leaders added him to the original cast of Impeachment!
Jordan underscored Taylor’s detachment from relevant events by reading this sing-song sentence from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s recent sworn testimony:
“‘Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I conveyed this message to Mr. Yermak on September 1, 2019, in connection with Vice President Pence’s visit to Warsaw and a meeting with President Zelensky.’” (Andriy Yermak is Zelensky’s top aide.)
“We’ve got six people having four conversations in one sentence,” said Jordan, astonished. “I’ve seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.”
Jordan further verified Taylor’s distance from Ukrainegate’s action.
Jordan: “You didn’t listen in on President Trump’s call and President Zelensky’s call?”
Taylor: “I did not.”
Jordan: “You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?”
Taylor: “I never did.”
Jordan: “You never met the president?”
Taylor: “That’s correct.”
Kent, also a stranger to Trump, admitted that he had “never in 27 years been on a call made by a President of the United States.”
• Taylor confirmed that Ukraine received the pertinent security assistance after a 55-day delay. Compare this to the 1,066-day, fruitless wait for lethal military aid between Russia’s February 20, 2014 invasion of Ukraine and the pillow-waving Obama’s January 20, 2017 departure from office.
“And isn’t it the case that the Trump administration has indeed provided substantially to Ukraine in the form of defensive lethal aid, correct?” asked Representative Elise Stefanik (R – New York).
“That is correct,” Taylor replied.
“And that is more so than the Obama administration, correct?” Stefanik inquired about “defensive lethal aid.”
Taylor answered: “Yes.”
• George Kent’s opening statement deflated the notion that America simply donates foreign aid in exchange for nothing. Thus, even if the $391 million in military assistance included a quid pro quo, that would not have been unusual.
“There are and always have been conditionality placed on our sovereign loan guarantees for Ukraine,” Kent said. “Conditions include anti-corruption reforms, as well as meeting larger stability goals and social safety nets.”
• Democrats whine that President Trump recalled Marie Yovanovitch as his attaché to Ukraine on April 24. Regardless, “The President has the right to have Ambassadors serve at his pleasure,” Kent conceded. This echoes Kent’s deposition: “All ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and that is without question. Everybody understands that.”
• Kent also recalled that he blew the whistle about Hunter Biden’s ties to Ukraine’s largest natural gas company while his father policed U.S./Ukraine policy.
“I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma,” Kent explained. “Soon after that, in a briefing call with the national security staff in the Office of the Vice President, in February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest.”
Impeachment! is off to a shaky start. Democrats, especially those from the 31 congressional districts that Trump won in 2016, must be squirming in their seats and wondering if they bet the House on the season’s biggest flop.