A common thread throughout the impeachment hearings has been Republicans’ attempts to get witnesses to agree with some completely baseless conspiracy theory they think will exonerate Donald Trump. We’re paraphrasing slightly, but most of the questions have been along the lines of: “Are you familiar with the article published on 4chan on June 16 that said Joe Biden and his son were engaged in a cover-up that threatened the safety of every American, and that the joint chiefs of staff told President Trump it must be investigated?” “Did you know that it’s been reported that Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma was viewed as the next 9/11 by Obama State Department staffers?” “Gordon Sondland came here yesterday and told us that it was a fact that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election—when did you first realize that too?” “I hold in my hand a sworn tweet by @realDonaldTrump testifying that he did absolutely nothing wrong, not one little thing—what do you say to that?” “You’re a spy working for the Ukrainians, aren’t you?”
These questions have been met with responses that range from “No, I’m not familiar with that,” to looks of bemusement, to completely blank stares and, if they existed, thought bubbles hovering just above that read “the fuck?” They’ve been summarily shot down by each and every witness that has appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, yet they persist because, sadly, it’s all Republicans have. Still, you might have thought, given the opening remarks by former National Security Council official Fiona Hill—which lawmakers and the public were able to read in advance of today’s proceedings—that somebody would’ve gotten the word out that they should scramble for an alternative, even if that meant reading aloud passages from Donald Trump Jr.’s latest contribution to literature, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. The tip-off should’ve been when Hill used her relatively short prepared remarks to tell the group:
Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified…. And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.
Put another way: “I have neither the time nor the inclination for your bullshit. Seriously, try me.” And unfortunately for Republicans, they did!
Not surprisingly, resident crackpot Devin Nunes kicked things off, spending his time talking about the Christopher Steele dossier, which, yes, has nothing to do with anything:
Later, questioning by Republicans’ Rent-a-Lawyer, Steve Castor, gave Hill an opening to denounce the smears of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, which paved the way for her ouster, and emphasize that Rudy Giuliani had inserted himself in Ukraine policy for the purposes of doing the president’s bidding:
Later, perhaps realizing that actually posing questions to Hill wasn’t working out in their favor, Representatives John Ratcliffe and Mike Turner simply used their allotted time to deliver angry monologues aimed at Hill without asking her anything. (“Could I actually say something?” she asked during the next lawmaker’s time, noting that Ratcliffe and Turner had huffily stormed out of the room already, perhaps too scared to face her response.)
Of course, shooting down absurd conspiracy theories and completely destroying the entire premise of Republicans’ defense of the president—if you can call it that—wasn’t Hill’s only contribution to the hearing:
In her testimony, she described being angry that Sondland, who Trump put in charge of Ukraine relations, “wasn’t coordinating” with other officials, noting that there’s a “robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine.” She explained she was “upset with him that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having,” which she chalked up to the fact that “we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing.”
Trump throughout the inquiry has defended his interest in investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election as coming from a desire to see Ukraine crack down on corruption. But Hill told Congress that what Sondland got involved in was “a domestic political errand,” whereas other officials were “involved in national security foreign policy.”
There was also this, which, in addition to her prepared statement, should’ve been a hint to Republicans that Hill was not to be trifled with:
When Hill, who was born and raised in northeast England, was 11 years old, a boy set her pigtail on fire in class. Hill simply put out the fire with her hands and finished taking the test, the New York Times reported.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, asked Hill about the story during Thursday’s impeachment hearings. “It is a true story,” Hill said. “It had some very unfortunate consequences because afterwards my mother gave me a bowl haircut. So for the school photograph later that week I look like Richard III.” That comment was met with laughter from the audience.
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