Day one of congressional Democrats’ three-day effort to finally prove that President Donald Trump committed one or more impeachable offenses is over. The case against Trump has been advanced no further, mainly because – as has been the case throughout the investigation – not one witness has provided proof of a crime or abuse of power. Furthermore, not one witness has directly stated that, in his or her belief, a crime or an abuse of power was committed.
The most damning statements made by any of the witnesses has been that, in the opinions of some of them, the president’s requests to Ukrainian President Zelensky and the temporary withholding of aid to Ukraine were inappropriate or potentially damaging to Ukrainian and/or U.S. interests.
Schiff Likely Lying About Whistleblower Identity
The so-called whistleblower who filed a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general about what Trump said to Zelensky has still not been identified, nor has he or she testified. That one fact remains the Democrats’ biggest obstacle to convincing the nation that this impeachment investigation is justified and being conducted fairly. That a duly elected president could be removed from office over a complaint filed by an anonymous government official who has not even testified and whom the accused, President Trump, will not be able to confront or have his legal team cross-examine is, by any objective measure, a travesty.
On November 19, though, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee came one step closer to this anonymous partisan. Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, who is the National Security Council (NSC) point man on Ukraine, admitted during his public hearing that he spoke with several individuals about the Trump-Zelensky phone call before being instructed by an NSC attorney not to discuss the matter.
The so-called whistleblower, we know, did not listen in on the call but apparently got his or her information from a source who did. Vindman is the only witness to testify so far who actually did listen in on the call between the two leaders and admits to having spoken about it with several people other than the NSC attorney. It seems likely, therefore – though not proven – that Vindman was the person from whom the “whistleblower” found out what passed between Trump and Zelensky.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wasted no time in shutting down Ranking Member Devin Nunes as the latter questioned Vindman over who he had spoken with about the phone call. The chairman objected that Republicans were trying to out the “whistleblower.” Vindman, however, claims he does not know the identity of the “whistleblower,” and Schiff denies knowing the individual’s identity. As Republicans pointed out, it would not have been possible to uncover the unknown official’s identity, since no one present at the hearing knew that identity – neither the questioners nor the questioned. Even if the name of this “whistleblower” had been discussed in the hearing, no one would have known the significance of it. Schiff, then, may have unwittingly revealed that he does, in fact, know who the “whistleblower” is and realized that Republican questions to Vindman were closing in on that individual.
It is also worth noting that, as former NSC senior official Tim Morrison testified both behind closed doors and again in Tuesday’s public hearing, Vindman was viewed by several of his colleagues as someone who did not exhibit sound judgment and had, in the past, leaked information.
Impeachment Undermining Foreign Policy
Morrison himself reported the content of the Trump-Zelensky call to an NSC attorney – not because he thought there was anything improper about it but because he feared the substance of the call would be leaked and used to whip up domestic political strife that might negatively affect U.S.-Ukraine relations.
In fact, both Morrison and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, who also testified Tuesday afternoon, ironically lamented – in their opening statements – that the impeachment investigation itself had done the most damage to the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine.
For his part, Volker claimed to have been unsettled that President Trump had made a specific reference to former Vice President Joe Biden during the call with Zelensky. Volker has a relationship with Biden that stretches back at least two decades, so, naturally, there may be a personal interest driving Volker’s view of the matter. Moreover, the former envoy expressed his horror that a former U.S. vice president would even be suspected of engaging in corruption – yet, here was Volker himself, voluntarily participating in a manufactured investigation of a sitting president.
The impeachment hearings continue to be nothing more than a televised pantomime: The Democrats long ago made up their minds that Trump is guilty of something. They are simply hoping to get one of their witnesses to directly confirm his guilt. Ultimately, this entire charade is about influencing the 2020 election. Many people expect the president will be impeached and then acquitted in the Senate, and that is what the Democrats will take into 2020: That the president is a criminal and Senate Republicans let him off the hook. The only question is whether the American public will buy it.
Read more from Graham J Noble.