Rubin: Why GOP witness wish list shows they can’t defend Trump

All Republicans have are distractions, claims of unfairness and threats aimed at the whistleblower.

By Jennifer Rubin / The Washington Post

House Republicans acknowledged they have no witnesses and no documents to dispute the main facts concerning President Trump’s impeachable conduct: a demand from Ukraine for dirt on a political rival; withholding of aid vital to Ukraine’s defense against Russia; concealing evidence of the scheme by moving a transcript to a secret server; and threatening the tipster who alerted Congress to gross malfeasance. They admitted all that? Well, in a manner of speaking they did.

The Washington Post reports:

“House Republicans sent Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, a list of witnesses they want to testify in the impeachment inquiry, including former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who filed the initial complaint against President Trump. …

“Schiff is likely to reject many, if not all, of the witnesses from the Republicans’ wish list.”

Hunter Biden lacks any direct knowledge of anything that occurred in the Trump White House, and hence he cannot rebut evidence of Trump’s demand that Ukraine interfere with our election. By Republicans’ own admission, the whistleblower lacks first-hand knowledge of events. (“Witnesses who testified out of public view have corroborated the crux of the case against Trump — that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals — so the Democrats see no need for the whistleblower, who heard the story secondhand, to testify. Three career State Department officials are returning next week for the public hearings.”)

All Republicans have are distractions, stunts to generate claims of unfairness, and gimmicks to threaten the life and career of the whistleblower. It’s remarkable, really, that they could stipulate to every fact about which the witnesses testified under oath.

Republicans implicitly admit that there is no disputing Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony. Vindman testified that, in the July 25 call, “there was no doubt” Trump made a demand of the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of a U.S. citizen, a “deliverable” to help his presidential re-election. “When the president of the United States makes a request for a favor, it certainly seems; I would take it as a demand,” Vindman testified. There are apparently no witnesses to contradict his testimony and none to dispute it was of such concern that Vindman went to John Eisenberg, the top national security lawyer in the White House.

Republicans apparently have no evidence to contradict the testimony of Fiona Hill, who served as a top Russia adviser to the White House. She testified that former national security adviser John Bolton, in a meeting following an exchange between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Ukrainian officials that made explicit that any White House meeting was conditioned on an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, “basically said; in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He did make it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.” In other words, the national security adviser knew hijacking foreign policy for Trump’s political gain was wrong and likely illegal.

Likewise, there is nothing to undermine Vindman’s testimony that the Office of Management and Budget put a hold on funds appropriated by Congress to Ukraine, an action contrary to U.S. policy, injurious to Ukraine and a function of the Trump-Giuliani campaign smear operation. (“Basically we were trying to get to the bottom of why this hold was in place, why OMB was applying this hold. There were multiple memos that were transmitted from my directorate to Ambassador Bolton on, you know, keeping him abreast of this particular development.”) Republicans have no evidence to dispute that.

Republicans have no evidence to dispute Hill’s complete debunking of the nutty conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Republicans have no evidence to dispute that Giuliani and his cronies obtained the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the competent and respected U.S. envoy to Kyiv. Republicans have yet to disprove evidence that Sondland, Giuliani and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were acting as agents of the president.

Republicans cannot dispute the testimony of George Kent that “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.” Republicans cannot produce evidence to contradict Kent’s conclusion that “Mr. Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information” against Yovanovitch, or was dispatched by Trump to obtain dirt on Biden.

Sure, in demanding irrelevant witnesses and continuing their campaign of intimidation against the whistleblower, Republicans threaten to make the entire proceeding a three-ring circus, something Schiff will try to prevent. However, it is a helpful reminder that Republicans should be able to stipulate to all of the facts presented by all of the witnesses Schiff has summoned. There is no factual defense to articles of impeachment that would include bribery, extortion and obstruction of justice.

Good to know, and good to know that the Republican Party stands foursquare behind a president soliciting a bribe, endangering U.S. national security and attempting to intimidate witnesses and cover his tracks.

Follow Jennifer Rubin on Twitter @JRubinBlogger.

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