Impeachment watch: GOP slammed for twisting truth at first public hearing

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The analysis of Republicans' bumbling and contradictory defense of Trump during Wednesday's impeachment hearing was not kind.

Republicans did Donald Trump no favors on Wednesday, during the first public hearings of the high-stakes impeachment inquiry that threatens Trump's presidency, according to multiple experts across the spectrum.

Analysis after analysis pilloried Republican lawmakers for pushing baseless conspiracy theories and pointed out that the two witnesses — Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a career State Department official focused on Ukraine — revealed damaging information and debunked the conspiracy theories GOP lawmakers tried to use to defend Trump.

The New York Times Editorial Board wrote that Republicans simply made things up to defend Trump: "Americans who tuned in also learned that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have set themselves a degrading task. Rather than engage the facts about Mr. Trump's Ukrainian escapade, they are twisting them and eliding them and inventing new ones they’d prefer. They spent most of Wednesday stuffing straw men and then ostentatiously knocking them down."

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A Washington Post analysis of the hearing said, "Kent emerged as a forceful debunker of some of the most frequently cited assertions and conspiracy theories among President Trump’s allies."

In an opinion piece in Politico, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote that Republicans tried to create confusion and sow doubt because they can't compete with the heaps of evidence implicating Trump in an extortion plot. Mariotti was particularly unkind to Steve Castor, the GOP lawyer on the House Intelligence Committee whose questioning of the witnesses fell flat.

"It appeared that he was told he had to fill 45 minutes, which is not easy to do when your side has no legitimate defense on the merits," Mariotti wrote of Castor. "He tried his best to testify through his questioning and confuse the issues — he spent a lot of time trying to get Taylor to acknowledge that Rudy Giuliani's 'irregular' diplomatic channel wasn’t as irregular as it could have been — but he could have sharpened his questions considerably."

The only positive assessment of Republicans' performance came from Fox News, whose Wednesday night programming looked like propaganda crafted by the Trump White House.

Trump-supporting hosts and guests painted a picture of an alternative reality in which the hearing was a "disaster" for Democrats.

With polling already showing that more Americans support impeaching Trump, a floundering GOP defense in these public testimonies isn't likely to change that opinion.

Here's what else is happening in impeachment news:

  • Damning new testimony from Taylor directly linked Trump to the extortion plot to withhold critical military aid to Ukraine in order to force the country to announce investigations into his political rivals.
  • The House called two new witnesses to testify in the impeachment hearings based on Taylor's testimony. David Holmes, the aid who Taylor said overheard Trump discussing the extortion plot, will testify, as will Mark Sandy, an Office of Management and Budget official.

Come back tomorrow for more impeachment news.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.