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Politics

'Schiff Show' Roundup: Hill Falsely Smears Republicans

Witnesses failed to present any evidence that Trump engaged in an illegal quid pro quo.

Thomas Gallatin · Nov. 22, 2019

If you want to present yourself as a credible, objectively minded, nonpartisan witness, you shouldn’t start by falsely disparaging an entire side of the political aisle. But that’s exactly what former National Security Council official Fiona Hill did in her opening statement on the last day of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings. She accused Republicans of not believing that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election and instead propagating a “fictional narrative” that it was Ukraine. So much for her claim of nonpartisanship.

Republicans were quick to take apart Hill’s false accusation, pointedly noting that every single Republican had signed off on the Justice Department’s conclusion that Russia had acted to interfere in the 2016 election. (Not to mention actual Ukrainian interference doesn’t preclude Russian interference.) Upon further questioning, Hill admitted that the accounts of Ukrainian officials working against then-candidate Donald Trump were accurate. “They bet on Hillary Clinton winning the election,” she said. “So, you know, they were trying to curry favor with the Clinton campaign.”

Furthermore, Hill tacitly gave a plausible reason for Trump’s negative view of Ukraine, stating, “Many [Ukrainian officials] said some pretty disparaging and hateful things about President Trump, and I can’t blame him for feeling aggrieved about that. … I would also take offense to some of the things that were said if I was the president.”

Hill also testified that former National Security Advisor John Bolton expressed to her his negative views of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, calling him a “hand grenade” — a statement he did not elaborate on any further. This reinforced a recurring theme: Many people were frustrated by Giuliani and viewed him as meddlesome.

An important point was also established that the stopping and starting of foreign aid is not an uncommon event. Republican counsel Steve Castor asked Hill, “Is it fair to say … stops and starts in aid like this sometimes do happen?” Hill responded, “That’s correct.” Castor then asked, “I believe you testified there was a freeze put on all kinds of aid and assistance because it was placed in a process of significant reviews of foreign assistance going on?” Hill answered, “That’s correct. … As I understand, there had been a directive for a wholesale review of our … foreign-policy assistance, and the ties … between our foreign-policy objectives and the assistance.”

Democrats also had David Holmes, a political counselor to the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testify. He dubiously claimed to have overheard a phone conversation between Gordon Sondland and Trump that so alarmed him that … he elected to continue with his vacation plans before deciding to act on it. According to Holmes, he heard Trump ask Sondland how the investigation was going, which Holmes interpreted as the investigation into Barisma and the Bidens. Needless to say, Holmes offered only hearsay as evidence.

Finally, a statement from soon-to-be-retiring Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas moderate who is no fan of Trump, serves to demonstrate just how badly this impeachment gambit has gone for the Democrats. Hurd said, “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.” As Nancy Pelosi writes up articles of impeachment, she faces the very real probability that not one Republican will vote in favor of impeachment while she may even lose two or three Democrats, giving Republicans the bipartisan talking point to level against this obviously partisan sham.

(Edited.)

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