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Trump defense collapses at Thursday’s Impeachment hearing

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Yesterday’s testimony from Fiona Hill and David Holmes was really the clincher for the case against Trump. Both witnesses gave their stories in prosaic, almost homely ways, compared to the equivocating sniveling of Sondland, who struck me as a rather sordid character.

But Hill and Holmes were anything but sordid. Holmes, who went first, told the tale of Trump’s criminal interference in Ukraine in a straight-forward way. The details were compelling, the narrative easy to follow, Trump’s crime impossible to overlook. Then came Hill, whose poise and articulateness—not to mention her public scolding of Republicans on the committee who, consciously or not, are peddling the Putin line—made her an ideal witness. Together, the two entirely confirmed what the other witnesses said—what we all know to be the facts: Trump, in an effort to hurt Joe Biden (who he thought was his likely, and most powerful, opponent in 2020), bribed, or attempted to bribe, Zelensky into announcing a fake investigation into the Bidens. In so doing, Trump not only broke the law, he entirely subverted longstanding American policy with respect to Ukraine, our ally, and endangered our national security.

That’s the story, pure and simple—and it was fun watching the Republicans on the committee and their lawyers squirm to rebut it. They tried to smear both witnesses as well as former witnesses (like Vinman). They tried to change the topic: Hillary, the Steel dossier, Sweden!!! They tried to protest the structure of the hearings, or the processes by which Democrats launched them, or the timelines. The peddled, again, the thoroughly discredited fable—manufactured by Russian security–that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in our 2016 election. They even descended to the absurdity of grilling Holmes about the distance between Sondland’s ear and his cell phone. They grabbed at any straw they could, to convince themselves and Trump’s base that the story of Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors could not possibly be true.

But of course it is. And everybody knows it.

I feel no sorrow for these Republicans. In attempting to defend the indefensible, they obviously have bitten off more than they can chew. But more than that, they have shown themselves before the Bar of History to be contemptible fools. At the very least, they have destroyed their own personal reputations. At the most, they have come dangerously close themselves to being part of a criminal conspiracy. And, as if all that isn’t bad enough, they’ve created a system of lies and truth-denying that threatens the very fabric of our society. That is Hitlerian.

Since there’s zero chance the traitors in the Republican Senate will vote to convict despite the mountain of evidence, it all comes down to the 2020 elections. It’s conventional wisdom to say that every election is the most important in our history, but in the case of 2020, I really believe it. I take heart in recent elections (Kentucky and Louisiana governerships, Virginia legislature) that went, improbably, for Democrats. But some polls (for instance, this one showing Trump winning in Wisconsin) give me pause. There is still a possibility, even after all we know about this unnatural inhabitant of the Oval Office, that enough people remain stupid enough, or credulous enough, or hateful enough, or stubborn enough–whatever–to cast a vote for the most stupendously incompetent man ever to be president. Add to that, we now know Russia—yes, the Russia with which Trump colluded in 2016–is working furiously on Trump’s behalf to do it again in 2020. Putin clearly has something on Trump; the two once again will conspire to subvert our election. If Trump is re-elected, America’s troubles will reach the boiling point.

Have a lovely weekend.

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