In his opening remarks at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, Rep. Devin Nunes stayed true to his partisan brand: distract, deflect and discredit.
His comments were a jumble of past and present Republican talking points about the Mueller investigation and the ongoing Ukraine scandal. To ensure that the waters were muddied, he threw in mentions of the “impeachment sham,” Hunter Biden, and the Steele dossier. He accused Democrats of being the “last people on earth with the credibility to hurl more preposterous accusations at their political opponents.” Aside from the idiocy of such overreaching bombast, has he forgotten that President Donald Trump recently called his Republican political opponents “human scum?”
The impeachment hearings are a gravely serious matter. Nunes nonetheless disparaged the process as a “televised theatrical performance.” He welcomed Ambassador Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent as witnesses who had passed “star-chamber auditions,” sardonically informing them that they have been cast in a “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to the ”Russia hoax" drama.
This was a disgraceful way to speak to two State Department officials with decades of experience in protecting America’s interests abroad. Given that Republicans and the press have found absolutely no evidence of these two gentlemen having any political ax to grind, Nunes' "welcome" to Taylor and Kent was insulting.
If Nunes hoped to somehow put the Democrats on the defensive with his opening statement, he failed. The public heard nothing new -- nothing that they could not have heard any given night on Fox News. Nunes' words were embarrassing, unseemly, and notably lacking in any proactive defense of the President. This was his chance to frame day one of the hearings, to lay out a solid case against impeachment, and to explain why and how the President’s actions were allegedly being mischaracterized. That Nunes was unable to do so speaks volumes and exposes the absence of any acceptable explanation for Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.