If there’s one big takeaway from today’s impeachment hearings, it would be this: It’s a highly partisan, political affair, in which the facts don’t appear to matter to Republicans one bit. In fact, all that matters is the “R” label that they wear across their chest.
If these were traditional times, there would be bi-partisan outrage over any US President conditioning a White House meeting and aid to a foreign government upon the investigation of a political opponent. But the Trump administration has been far from traditional.
The top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor -- who has served this country in various capacities and administrations -- commanded the room in his opening statement, and in his responses to questions by committee members.
In so doing, he made clear that he was not there to pass judgment on anything or anyone, but merely to recite the facts.
He highlighted the significance of the US alliance with Ukraine in protecting it from attacks by Russia, and the fact that US security assistance was crucial to Ukraine’s defense.
Taylor further spoke of the need for the US to be a reliable strategic partner. He was mystified by the two differing channels of US policy — one of which was formal and strategic, and the other which was highly irregular, and led by Rudy Giuliani.
America’s strategic interests were being diminished, confidence in our commitment to Ukraine was being shaken and undermined, soldiers were dying, but no aid was flowing.
What has been the Republican’s defense to this? First, they say that Ukraine got the aid anyway so it doesn’t matter. That’s like saying you can try to kill someone, but as long as you don’t succeed, no harm no foul. Second, they insist that Trump’s plan of conditioning aid on the investigation was not immediately known by the Ukrainian President so why should it matter. In other words, as long as a person is unaware of your criminal intentions, those intentions are excusable and irrelevant.
Instead of the Republicans' defenses getting any better, sadly they got worse. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes doubled down on a familiar Trump claim and told the public that Trump actually provided Ukrainians with missiles while former President Barack Obama gave them blankets, which is not the whole truth. (Obama gave much more than blankets.) So, in other words, since Trump gave Ukraine more weapons, why should anything else matter? Republicans say that Trump was really concerned about the corruption of Ukraine. That argument is actually pretty funny given the amount of indictments we’ve seen associated with Trump in the last three years.
And here’s a Republican favorite: The Ukrainian President said he felt no pressure. Ah, as if the person who depends upon millions in aid from the US to protect his country from Russian annihilation, and has no clue as to whether Trump will get reelected, will publicly rail against a President who delights in the agony of his enemies.
Last but not least, the Republicans love to talk about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his board seat on Burisma and the $50,000 monthly fee he received. Every time I hear that, it makes my eyes roll as it’s just another effort to deflect and distract from the facts. And ironically, I think of the Republican hero Ronald Reagan telling Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential debate: “There you go again.”
Corruption used to be something everyone was concerned about. Nowadays, it just ain’t so. So, I expect more of the same moving forward: Democrats pointing to the facts and laying them bare, with the Republicans spinning, bobbing and weaving saying “who cares”— the President did nothing wrong. And that’s a shame.
Joey Jackson is a legal analyst for CNN and HLN, and a partner at New York City-based Watford Jackson, PLLC.