‘I’d like to congratulate you for passing the Democrats’ star-chamber auditions… It seems you agreed, witting or unwittingly, to participate in a drama…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As impeachment proceedings went public on Wednesday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee promptly denounced the testimony of two witnesses as scripted “theatrics” orchestrated by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
They pushed back against Schiff’s efforts to craft a narrative about U.S.–Ukrainian relations during the Trump administration that was scrubbed of all context involving Democrats’ own corruption: in Ukraine, in the 2016 election, and in their past and present efforts to impeach Trump on false pretenses.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking GOP minority member on the Intelligence Committee, said the answers to those questions—which collectively provided the backdrop for President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, were crucial to understanding Trump’s motivations and intent—on which hung all the accusations made by House Democrats.
“In the blink of an eye, we’re asked to simply forget about Democrats on this committee falsely claiming they had more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russians … and forget about countless other deceptions, large and small, that make them the last people on earth with the credibility to hurl more preposterous accusations at their political opponents,” Nunes said in his opening statement.
“And yet, now, here we are,” he continued. “We’re supposed to take these people at face value when they try and trot out a new batch of allegations, but anyone familiar with the Democrats’ scorched-earth war against President Trump would not be surprised to see all the typical signs that this is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”
Nunes proceeded to outline the repeated examples of bad faith that Schiff and other Democrats had put on display during the “cult-like” closed hearings, which have taken place since September in the basement of the U.S. Capitol.
“The witnesses deemed suitable for television by the Democrats were put through a closed-door audition process,” Nunes said, noting that Republicans had been prevented from calling witnesses and, in some cases, from interrogating those who were called.
Instead, Nunes said, Schiff relied upon a “flood of misleading and one-sided leaks” to his left-wing media allies in order to spin the case for impeachment, “and later, selectively released transcripts in a highly staged manner.”
Nunes cast aspersions on the two witnesses scheduled to testify during the day, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and current Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor.
“I’d like to congratulate you for passing the Democrats’ star-chamber auditions, held for the last weeks in the basement of the Capitol,” Nunes told Kent and Taylor.
“It seems you agreed, witting or unwittingly, to participate in a drama,” he continued. “But the main performance, the Russia hoax, has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent, Ukrainian sequel.”
Both witnesses later spoke in their testimony to the existence of parallel policy-making teams in Ukraine—the legitimate one led by Taylor and State Department officials, and an illegitimate one led by Rudy Giuliani, along with a host of Trump allies, that sought to uncover political activity designed to damage the president and benefit his opponents.
As Schiff noted, many of the facts presented by the two loyal civil servants, who claimed to be nonpartisan, have not been disputed.
Nonetheless, as Nunes observed, the devil is in the details—notably, the omission of any acknowledgment that U.S. and Ukrainian officials may have colluded to interfere in the 2016 election and to undermine the Trump presidency.
Such revelations would validate the underlying concerns that informed the president’s Ukrainian approach and his insistence on some form of assurance that Zelenskiy would make good on his anti-corruption campaign promises.
Paraphrasing Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Schiff said, “President Trump is a businessman. … [and] when a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.”
More ‘Pinocchios’ for Schiff?
Republicans sought early on to point out Schiff’s lack of credibility, which he appeared to compound with several patently false statements during the morning proceedings.
At one point in his opening remarks, Schiff misleadingly claimed that Trump had not met with Zelenskiy, although the two met during a U.N. General Assembly session in September.
That meeting came only days after Democrats first lobbed their accusations about a July 25 phone call that became the subject of a whistleblower complaint, presumed to have been filed by partisan deep-state operative Eric Ciaramella.
Perhaps Schiff’s biggest whopper, however, came after members of the committee—including Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, whom House GOP leaders recently moved to the Intelligence Committee specially for the impeachment hearings—moved to deposition the whistleblower.
As with many of the obvious pieces of information Democrats have sought to suppress from the official record, members of Congress have been largely prohibited from mentioning Ciaramella’s name or even acknowledging an awareness of the likely whistleblower’s identity during the proceedings.
“Do you anticipate when we might vote on the ability to have the whistleblower in front of us,” asked Jordan, following a motion by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, to subpoena the anonymous individual.
“Of the 435 members of Congress, you are the only member who knows who that individual is,” Jordan told Schiff, “and your staff is the only staff of any member who’s had a chance to talk with that individual.”
Schiff, who already received four “Pinocchios” from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler for publicly lying about his staff’s interactions with the whistleblower, then appeared to repeat the brazen claim.
“First, as the gentleman knows, that’s a false statement,” he said. “I do not know the identity of the whistleblower, and I’m determined to make sure that identity is protected.”