The first phase of public impeachment hearings has officially wrapped, and just one day later, President Trump unloaded his frustrations to Fox News. The previous two weeks saw televised testimony from a dozen witnesses detailing the Trump administration’s attempt to seek investigations into the president’s political opponents, namely Joe Biden and his son Hunter, led by Ukraine. The past two weeks saw bombshell after bombshell being dropped, exposing a wholly corrupt administration.
Thursday’s impeachment hearings saw Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia advisor, and David Holmes, a State Department official at the U.S. Embassy located in Ukraine, give their sworn testimonies. Hill testified that she had a conflict with Gordon Sondland, Trump’s handpicked EU Ambassador, earlier this year over his claim that he was working on Ukraine policy to pursue a “domestic political errand” at Trump’s direction. She told Sondland that Trump’s policy on Ukraine was “all going to blow up” and come back to haunt them. During her testimony, Hill also chided Republicans for pushing a false narrative about Ukraine and a conspiracy theory that alleged Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election, driven by partisan politics. Hill stated that the false narrative distracted the president from the actual threat that Russia poses to America’s democracy.
It is worth noting that Fiona Hill came out of the impeachment inquiry as a principled voice in the hearings. She rebutted the Republic conspiracy theory about Ukraine meddling in the election and answered questions about Trump’s alleged quid pro quo he is accused of in a focused and undaunted manner, even after being the target of false accusations and death threats. Hill also had to deal with Republicans who used up their allocated questioning time not to ask Hill questions, but to rage at her and blindly defend the president. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, spent his questioning time trying to explain Republicans’ defense against Trump’s impeachment and dismissed Hill’s testimony as “hearsay,” to which a Democratic congressman accused him of mansplaining to Hill. Likewise, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chided Hill for faulting those who pushed the false narrative that Ukraine sought to meddle in the 2016 election and called the inquiry a “coup.” Hill became a standout in the proceedings when, following Wenstrup’s statement, she asked, “Can I actually say something?”, a statement that resonated with women everywhere.
Alongside Hill was David Holmes, who gave his own testimony. Holmes told lawmakers that by the end of August, he had become convinced that Trump had frozen security aid for Ukraine to pressure the country to publicly commit to an investigation into the Bidens. “By this point,” Holmes said, “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.” Both Holmes and Hill said it was clear that mentions of Burisma—the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden—by Trump, Rudy Giuliani, or others were obviously references to the investigations that the president wanted Ukraine to conduct. When asked whether “anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well,” to which Holmes simply replied, “Yes.”
This past week also saw testimony from Gordon Sondland, EU Ambassador and Trump donor. In his opening statement, Sondland said that he worked with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, “at the express direction” of President Trump in matters relating to Ukraine. Sondland stated that the Trump administration would not give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a chance to visit the White House unless Zelensky agreed to announce investigations into the Bidens that could help Trump politically, confirming that a quid pro quo did indeed take place. “I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo’?” Sondland said. “…With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.” Sondland also testified that top officials in the Trump administration were aware of what was happening, and he brought the emails to prove it. Among the officials he named were Vice President Mike Pence, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A day after the public hearings wrapped up, President Trump unloaded a stream of falsehoods (that were easily fact-checked) in a rambling 53-minute phone interview with “Fox & Friends”. During the interview, Trump accused David Holmes of fabricating the phone call between Trump and Sondland that Holmes overheard, then went on to say that he barely knew Sondland—a favored tactic by the president when he throws his lackeys under the bus. The president also spouted debunked conspiracy theories, like the Obama administration spying on his campaign, and reiterating the false narrative of Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election. If anything, Trump’s rambling call to “Fox & Friends” demonstrated that he’s paranoid (more so than usual) and fearful that his crimes are catching up to him.
Though no hearings are planned to be held during the week of Thanksgiving and Congress does not return to Washington until the week of Dec. 2, Democrats could add closed-door interviews or hearings to the calendar. When asked during a news conference Thursday whether there will soon be a vote on impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. said, “We haven’t made any decision yet.” Moving forward, the House Intelligence Committee will draft a report of its findings which will then be presented to the House Judiciary Committee, the group tasked with drafting and deliberating on articles of impeachment. Then, if the House votes to impeach, the Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to remove the president from office, which will need a vote of 67 of the 100 senators.