As the impeachment inquiry rumbles on, Trump’s defenders in the House Republican caucus have decided to try out a few new defenses.
No longer are they criticizing Democrats’ failure to hold a vote to “authorize” an impeachment inquiry — partly because that argument lost its teeth last week after a federal judge ruled that there is no legal or constitutional requirement that an impeachment probe be authorized by a vote of the full House.
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Also gone the way of the dodo are arguments about how Democrats’ entire impeachment case is based on hearsay, thanks to the emergence of a firsthand witness who listened to Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky. That firsthand witness is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
Vindman emigrated from the former Soviet Union at the age of three and is a combat-wounded Iraq veteran who speaks Ukrainian and Russian fluently. When word leaked that he would largely confirm testimony from other witnesses, some of Trump’s TV allies tried to smear the Purple Heart recipient as somehow disloyal to the United States.
One Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, told me she found the attacks on Vindman “revolting,” and said they reveal the weakness of the Republicans’ case: ”They’ve got nothing, so they either have to focus on process or try to undermine the credibility of someone who’s defended the United States of America and kept us safe.”
California Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu, an Air Force Reserve Colonel, similarly called the attacks “disgraceful.”
“[Vindman] risked his life, he spilled his blood… people who attack his loyalty should apologize,” he said. “It makes me sad for America that they’re willing to attack a patriotic American soldier simply because he’s about to tell the truth.”
Trump seems to think that the president of the Ukraine is Russian
Republicans may have gotten the message that smearing a combat veteran isn’t going to fly in middle America. At their weekly leadership press conference, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney pushed back against Trump allies’ attacks on Vindman.
“It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this country,” Cheney said of attacks on witnesses like Vindman and Ambassador William Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and career foreign service officer.
Instead, Republicans are trying another tack. They’re now arguing that the lack of a vote that wasn’t legally necessary to begin with has tainted all the evidence gathered by the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees over the past four and a half weeks.
“A due process starts at the beginning. It doesn’t affirm a miss, sham investigation all the way through,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday. “If you were in the legal term, it’d be the fruit from the poisonous tree.”
McCarthy also added a new twist to the “no quid pro quo” line which he and his fellow Trump defenders have been chanting like a mantra lately. No longer do he and compatriots argue that there was no quid pro quo because Trump never held up military aid. Instead, McCarthy now argues that there was no quid pro quo because the White House eventually released the military aid after inquiries from Senate Republicans.