Impeachment hearings expose the Russian dupes in GOP
So completes two weeks of impeachment hearings. Will we hear more? See more? We don’t know yet, but it sounded like the House Intelligence Committee, the ones holding the hearings, were giving their closing arguments.
Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) delivering on a Russian propaganda argument to denounce the hearings. And his fellow Putin minions echoing that conspiracy theory.
One of the ironies of the hearings came when Republicans tried to shame one of the witnesses, Fiona Hill, for even suggesting they were some of Putin’s useful idiots.
Along with Hill we heard from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper, David Hale and David Holmes who heard a phone call between Sondland and President Trump that pretty much proved the case against Trump.
The week before we heard from William Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch. That’s a list of ambassadors, special aides and envoys; a mix of political appointees and career civil servants.
What was the common thread they all had in their testimony? There was an alternate, domestic political errand, going on along with the legitimate foreign policy with Ukraine. And EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was the second point man on the errand, behind the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland, in fact, told the committee that there was indeed a quid pro quo and it was directed by President Donald J. Trump.
For some of us it isn’t an act of quid pro quo, it is extortion that only ended when the scheme was uncovered after a whistleblower report had been reported in the news.
After the whistleblower report was made public the Trump Administration released a transcript of a phone call between President Trump and the newly-elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. It shows Trump putting conditions on the release of about $400 million in military aid.
The words that put the extortion into actionable motion: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.”
What was the “whole thing” with Ukraine? A debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian officials — in collaboration with the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign — interfering in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race and (this is the good part) making it look like the Russians did it.
Despite 17 U.S. intelligence agencies saying, without debate, that it was the Russians that have been interfering in our elections, not only in 2016, but now, and not only U.S. elections, but around the world. Not only the faux Ukraine election conspiracy, but another, possibly more important debunked conspiracy theory, that when Joe Biden was vice president he interfered in Ukraine’s affairs to block the investigation into an energy company that had Biden’s son Hunter on its board. A lot has been made of why Hunter Biden was on the board and how much he was getting paid.
The irony of Trump supporters calling out Hunter Biden for trading off his father’s name and position for great financial gain. Then claiming there is some kind of corruption, something illegal, going on.
All of it debunked. Some pundits have gone along with the distraction saying Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma, the energy company in question, is bad optics. It gives Trump something to hang his conspiracy theory on, instead of emphasizing the fact that there was no wrong-doing by Hunter or Joe Biden and that President Trump committed an impeachable offense when he used taxpayer dollars to bribe a foreign government into providing phony dirt on a domestic political rival.
Now, thanks to a FOIA request we know the Secretary of State was deeply involved, just as Ambassador Sondland said in his public testimony. Some of the more astounding moments of the hearings came when Sondland told the committee, “Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Then there is this: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” He named Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s senior adviser, Rob Blair; Pompeo’s counselor, Ulrich Brechbuehl, State Department executive secretary Lisa Kenna, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton and his deputy, Fiona Hill; and Timothy Morrison, Hill’s replacement.
The most recent revelation from the FOIA request: The lengths the Trump Administration went to justify delaying the military aid to Ukraine, plus all of their bullshit excuses.
We already saw Mulvaney admit in front of TV cameras that there was a quid pro quo, that he was in on it and they they do it all the time. “Get over it,” he told us.
One of the scariest realities of this scandal is that Donald Trump and his GOP toadies are promoting Russian propaganda to defend the president and deflect attention away from Trump’s criminality. The most profound moment in the hearings came from the former Deputy National Security Advisor Fiona Hill. She admonished the Republicans on the committee, led by ranking member and Trump loyalist Devin Nunes, for peddling the Russian propaganda in the probe to defend the president. She called the line of defense a “fictional narrative” The last part of her opening statement is vital and gets to the heart of why the GOP defense is so dangerous.
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.
“The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined.
“U.S. support for Ukraine — which continues to face armed Russian aggression — has been politicized.
“The Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country — to diminish America’s global role and to neutralize a perceived U.S. threat to Russian interests. President Putin and the Russian security services aim to counter U.S. foreign policy objectives in Europe, including in Ukraine, where Moscow wishes to reassert political and economic dominance.
“I say this not as an alarmist, but as a realist. I do not think long-term conflict with Russia is either desirable or inevitable. I continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with Moscow even as we counter their efforts to harm us. Right now, Russia’s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them. In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.
“As Republicans and Democrats have agreed for decades, Ukraine is a valued partner of the United States, and it plays an important role in our national security. And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016.
“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes. President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a Super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each
another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.
“I respect the work that this Congress does in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities, including in this inquiry, and I am here to help you to the best of my ability. If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention. But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm.”
Another moment in Rep. Nunes closing statement was when he said the charges against the president went from quid pro quo, then extortion and then bribery and back to quid pro quo. Well Devin, maybe it is all three. There was a quid pro quo (according to Sondland), it was evidently extortion, if, as the evidence shows, Trump was using U.S tax payer funds to pressure the new Ukraine president to do his personal bidding, and it fits the description of a bribe.
Then there is this about Nunes, just reported: He worked with Giuliani confidant Lev Parnas to gin up information to support the Russian propaganda linking Joe Biden to the faux Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections.
So what comes next? It’s all but certain the House Judicial Committee will draft articles of impeachment for the house to vote on. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the votes. But then it’s on to the Senate where South Carolina Republican and Trump bootlicker Lindsey Graham is going ahead with investigations on Joe Biden and Burisma. In other words, using the U.S. Senate to do Putin’s bidding.
There was a time Republicans were hawks on Russia. Now, with few exceptions, that is no longer true. They are blocking legislation to protect our 2020 elections from Russia and other adversaries.
This is why 2020 can’t just be about removing Donald Trump from office. There needs to be a housecleaning, sweeping the entire GOP out of control of the federal and state governments. Republicans are against science, against women’s rights, against healthcare as a human right; anti-non-white immigration, making them xenophobic, supporting racist policies (i.e. the horrors at our southern border) and as we’ve found out with the impeachment hearings: pro Putin.
If and when we do that the next step is to hold Democrats accountable to put climate change and immigration at the top of the agenda. Along with infrastructure that is in line with the Green New Deal. Removing Trump and the GOP isn’t the end of the job, it’s just the beginning.
All photos are YouTube screenshots from the impeachment hearings
Top photo: Former Deputy National Security Advisor Fiona Hill
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.