Impeachment Trial

Public Impeachment Hearings Conclude as Trump Implicated in Quid Pro Quo

During what will likely become known as the most consequential week of Donald Trump’s presidency, public impeachment hearings produced damning testimony that strongly suggests the President engaged in a quid-pro-quo scheme with the President of Ukraine, asking for information politically useful for his reelection campaign in exchange for military assistance and a meeting at the White House. The witnesses, many of whom have long and decorated careers as non-partisan high-level administration officials, provided testimony recounting virtually all aspects of the alleged quid-pro-quo scheme, including the development of a second, irregular channel for engaging with Ukraine to circumvent the normal, diplomatic channel, and a phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland during which details of the arrangement were discussed. While Republicans, most notably Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan, spent the duration of the hearings attacking Democrats and the process of holding impeachment hearings, they failed to produce any evidence contradicting the Democrats’ theory of the case, instead shifting attention towards Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and promulgating a debunked conspiracy theory suggesting the Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton.

Embed from Getty Images

Of this historically consequential week, perhaps the most significant testimony came on Wednesday, when Ambassador Gordon Sondland confirmed the existence of a quid pro quo and implicated several high-level administration officials in the scheme, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Pence, asserting that “everyone was in the loop.” Although some key witnesses, including Rudolph Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, and John Bolton declined to testify, other witnesses corroborated Sondland’s retelling of events, as members of Bill Taylor’s staff reported overhearing a phone call between Sondland and Trump in a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine. Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill, the last witness in the two-week series of hearings, went a step further to try to discredit the Republican narrative, claiming that it was a “fictional” conspiracy theory promulgated by the Russians as part of a disinformation campaign to interfere with domestic American politics. Undeterred, Republicans continued to push this narrative, and Senator Linsdey Graham, who will be a juror in the upcoming impeachment trial, launched an investigation into the Bidens, Burisma, and Ukraine, despite criticisms that doing so would have a destructive effect on the integrity of American elections.

One of the lessons of the Trump era is that in modern American politics, even the most confident of predictions can turn out to be completely wrong.

Despite the presence of clear and direct evidence implicating the President in a bribery scheme with Ukraine, Republicans have a number of defenses at their disposal, which are sure to be repeated throughout the next several weeks as the trial begins in the Senate. Reportedly, Republicans in the Senate don’t have the 51 votes necessary to rapidly dismisses charges in the trial, suggesting the event will be a protracted affair, though no one can say for sure exactly what the Senate will do at this point. This morning, after meeting with several Republican senators who will serve as jurors in his trial, the President asserted via phone interview on Fox and Friends that he welcomes a Senate trial, pointing out that a trial would give him the opportunity to call witnesses that could defend his case. During this interview, Trump made comments that appeared to make the hosts of Fox and Friends visibly uncomfortable, such as the claim that officials had to be “nice” to Marie Yovanovitch because “she’s a woman.”

Embed from Getty Images

As of yet, Republicans have not shown any dissent from Trump and none have called for his removal from office, despite near-unanimous consent among Democrats of the severity of his crimes and the danger he poses to American democracy. As such, it’s hard to imagine that a requisite twenty Republican senators would vote to remove Trump from office. That being said, one of the lessons of the Trump era is that in modern American politics, even the most confident of predictions can turn out to be completely wrong. As such, the upcoming trial is sure to draw a tremendous amount of attention from around the world, and the outcome of the trial, unpredictable as it may be, is likely to have dramatic and historic consequences on American politics.