Impeachment Hearings: What You Need to Know
What eventful days it has been on Capitol Hill!
On Tuesday, four witnesses testified over a span of 11+ hours discussing their insights into Trump’s request to have President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s involvement in the 2016 election—all allegedly resulting in Trump’s decision to withhold $400 million in Ukrainian military aid.
The first called to testify by the Democrats was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman—the US’s top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Accompanying him was Jennifer Williams, one of Vice President Pence’s national security aides. She too was called by the Democrats. Both listened to the July 25, 2019 call between President Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Colonel Vindman claimed Trump’s demands for Ukraine to investigate former VP Joe Biden were “inappropriate” and “likely to have significant implications for national security” (as reported by the New York Times). Jennifer Williams agreed that withholding Ukraine’s military aid was “damaging to Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian aggression” (Jennifer Williams via NYT).
On Tuesday, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Russia and Europe, testified as witnesses submitted by Republicans. Volker mostly played the “I didn’t know anything” card while Morrison indicated that the July 25 call did not contain any wrongdoings or illegalities.
Wednesday’s round of hearings brought an interesting twist—one Democrats have been anxiously awaiting from the very beginning. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, testified against President Trump implicating that there was indeed a quid pro quo “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting,” (Gordon Sondland via NPR). Laura Cooper—a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department—then testified, defending the president saying, “there was no wrongdoing because the Ukrainians weren’t even aware that a hold was put on the aid” (NPR).
Thursday concluded with Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert, and David Holmes, a United States Embassy official located in Ukraine who happened to be a witness to a phone call between President Trump and Gordon Sondland (NYT). Dr. Hill essentially blamed Ukraine for meddling in the 2016 elections, not Russia. She and David Holmes also claimed that the name “Burisma” (a Ukrainian energy company) was actually code for investigating the Bidens (NYT). Holmes said he was under the impression that Trump’s reason behind withholding Ukraine’s military aid was an “expression of dissatisfaction” or “as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so” (David Holmes via NYT).
So what’s next? Even more—what does this mean for Trump in the 2020 election? It remains to be seen if the House will impeach the president. It’s a very serious and precedent setting decision we all hope will be considered carefully and fairly. However, as I explained in an earlier blog, our Founding Fathers predicted more than 200 years ago that House proceedings looking into impeachment were expected to be political circuses. This past week has lived up to that prediction. If the House does vote to impeach, the case will fall into the hands of the Senate where the charges will most likely be dismissed or President Trump will be formally acquitted. Only a major bombshell will garner the 67 votes necessary to convict and remove the president. As some commentators have asked, is the reality behind the House proceeding nothing more than an exercise by Democrats to keep Trump from being re-elected? Will the new normal for presidents in parties opposite the majority in the House be forever looking over their shoulders at the prospect of impeachment for whatever political winds might bring?
The sad news is we have to watch political theater as each side postures with constant insults and accusations. For every person who testifies in support of impeachment, another testifies against it. If it goes to the Senate and a trial is undertaken, we can expect even more partisan politics as the Republicans get their chance to make the rules. That’s the bad news. The good news is in November those who should be deciding the fate of Donald Trump, one-third of the Senate, and the entire House of Representatives will be in the People – the ultimate arbiters in our Constitution on who sits in the White House and on Capitol Hill. You and me. So let us make sure we vote and send whatever our message is to those sitting in Washington today about how we feel they’ve governed in the face of an immigration crisis, a crumbling infrastructure, a broken health care system, nuclear proliferation, trade imbalances, out of control spending, and more.
Ask yourself this: Do any of them deserve to be reelected?