I Have No Jacket, and I Must Scream: The Jim Jordan Story
So, impeachment. If you hadn’t heard, that’s a thing. There’s been quite a lot happening — to the tune of nearly 10 hours of hearings on Tuesday alone — so let’s sort through what’s going on, why it matters and why, for the love of all that’s holy, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, won’t wear a jacket.
First, the basics. President Donald Trump, who recently suffered, in his own words, “the greatest defeat in the history of the world” when Republican incumbent Matt Bevin lost the Kentucky gubernatorial race, attempted to illegally leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to elicit the announcement of a politically damaging corruption investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Evidence of the president’s scheme, headed in large part by super-lawyer and tech savant Rudy Giuliani, who very much does not work for the U.S. government and shouldn’t be handling anything resembling foreign policy (hello, Logan Act!), first came to light through a whistleblower complaint. The complaint has since been corroborated nearly point-for-point by a reconstructed transcript of a July Trump/Zelensky phone call and the testimony of numerous witnesses, including Trump political appointee and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland — not precisely a “Never Trumper,” not that that should (or will) matter — and decorated war hero Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
With the stage thus set, public impeachment hearings began last week, heralding a thousand new drink specials in D.C. bars. Subpoena Colada, anyone?
The public hearings aren’t necessarily bringing with them new revelations, however, because much of the testimony from witnesses has already been heard behind closed doors in a series of hearings conducted by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.
Nonetheless, House Democrats see value in the hearings. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas (not the presidential candidate, the one with the beard), told Vox that Democrats “have a responsibility to follow through with the full investigation” as part of the process of impeachment. And perhaps more importantly, they believe public hearings will be important politically. “The importance of public hearings is to make the case to the American people,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said to Vox. After all, all the world's a stage.
The Stringer Bell Rule, or How To Crime For Dummies
Now, onto the hearings themselves. A lot has happened and a lot’s been said — too much to go over in detail here. But while none of the hearings have looked great for the president — especially not the one where he intimidated a witness over Twitter in real time — Wednesday was arguably his worst day yet (as pointed out by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. in an excellent tweet). Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland came into the hearing more than ready to throw anyone and everyone under the bus, and frankly looked like he was having a grand old time doing it.
Sondland’s testimony not only confirmed the existence of a quid pro quo — hardly in dispute, but still noteworthy coming from a political appointee with first-hand knowledge — but it placed Trump at the center of the narrative, dispelling arguments that Rudy Giuliani and other Trump confederates were acting independently.
Sondland also came prepared to name names; his testimony implicated both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who may not be long for this administration, according to recent reporting — as having knowledge of the scandal. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry also came up.
Lastly, Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday comes after he “updated” his closed-door testimony earlier this month, presumably to avoid charges of lying to Congress following Roger Stone being found guilty for that very offense. His Wednesday appearance represented a further cleanup: “The Sondland bet,” wrote POLITICO correspondent Ryan Lizza on Twitter, is “I will give you everyone and everything as long as you ignore the glaring contradiction about whether I specifically discussed Biden on that call with Trump and afterwards with Holmes which could possibly get me a perjury charge.”
Quid Pro Oh No
But there’s more to impeachment than the simple facts of the case so far, damning though they might be to the president. The efforts of congressional Republicans to variously dissuade, dissemble and outright deceive about the reality of the president’s actions have been on ongoing saga in their own right parallel to the continuing barrage of news stories about the Ukraine imbroglio itself.
Notably, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had a particularly bad Wednesday following Sondland’s explicit confirmation of the presence of a quid pro quo. Graham previously told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing,” and, well, Sondland did show that, and it’s fairly disturbing.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has also been having himself quite the week, largely distinguished by his repeated attempts, along with Republican counsel Steve Castor, to corner the market on conspiracy theories.
But while Republicans haven’t exactly been able to get their arguments straight, they’re by and large sticking by the president (with the notable exception of ex-Republican and impeachment supporter Justin Amash, who Wednesday tweeted “Is there a mercy rule for congressional hearings?”). As such, we’re more or less still on the same path as we were a few weeks ago, even as the facts of the case continue to look worse for Trump. Specifically, the president will likely be impeached by a party-lines vote in the House, followed by a Senate trial and an acquittal. After that, it’s off to the 2020 races, albeit with a newly impeached president.
Also, one last thing: Impeachment is very much an ongoing story which, much to this reporter’s dismay, has been continually changing with no regard for deadlines. I need to file before my editor comes hunting me, but if you want to continue following along with the president’s crime extravaganza, Vox has a constantly updated and exhaustive explainer here for all of your Thanksgiving dinner talking point needs. Enjoy!
Thumbnail courtesy Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia Commons.