The Democrats’ impeachment strategy of gathering evidence through closed-door hearings that deny Republicans the opportunity to make a circus of them is working brilliantly. It has robbed Donald Trump of a single villain to fixate on as multiple witnesses illuminate his misconduct. It has also led his GOP allies on the Hill to make fools of themselves with amateurish antics like storming a secure hearing room, the country’s national security be damned.
As has been pointed out by many observers, Republicans have been left with nothing but process arguments about Democrats not holding hearings out in the open. “This is a Soviet-style process,” Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, charged Wednesday of the closed-door deposition for a Pentagon official. “It should not be allowed in the United States of America. Every member of Congress ought to be allowed in that room. The press ought to be allowed in that room.”
Republicans as champions of the free press—that’s a twist we didn’t see coming. But frankly, plenty of details from this initial round of closed-door testimony, mostly from career professionals, has spilled into public view through the free press. In fact, the very reason Republican lawmakers are uniformly assailing the process Democrats are implementing is precisely because it has produced a constellation of evidence that has thoroughly eviscerated Trump and every defense of him the White House has advanced.
First, the transcript of Trump’s “perfect” call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that was supposed to exonerate Trump proved to only be “perfect” when viewed through the eyes of a criminal. Then Trump and his allies misleadingly claimed his conduct could only be impeachable if there was a quid pro quo—until career diplomats testified that Trump had explicitly withheld both security assistance and a face-to-face meeting with Zelensky until Ukraine committed to launching the pet investigations that would benefit Trump politically. Then there supposedly couldn’t be a quid pro quo because Ukraine didn’t know the U.S. was withholding aid—until reporting revealed Ukrainian leaders did indeed know the U.S. was blocking the aid from flowing and they knew it as early as May, weeks before Zelensky was even sworn in.
The facts are simply shredding every defense Trump and his GOP allies have dreamed up and so they have been left to whine about the process—which leaves one to wonder what the heck they are going to do when Democrats release all the transcripts of the closed-door hearings publicly, as House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff has promised to do. And what will Republicans do when the key witnesses who have testified behind closed doors then testify in the string of public hearings that are sure to come once Democrats settle on their articles of impeachment?
And what about that formal impeachment vote Republicans have been clamoring for? Will any voters even give that a second thought after the articles of impeachment have been drafted and every lawmaker in the House has had a chance to vote on them? No, they won’t. Voters won’t care about any of these stupidly shortsighted antics that fire-breathers like Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz are concocting to make Trump feel better.
Most Senate Republicans appear to have figured this out, which is why their response of choice these days to reporters asking about incriminating testimony is that they should reserve judgment until they have seen all the facts. What they aren’t saying, of course, is that the totality of those facts may well prove to be completely indefensible—even for a GOP caucus that would give anything to look the other way yet again as Trump sells out the American people to his own benefit.