It was not a good day for Democrats in the House impeachment hearings.
There was Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) saying: “Now pretty much, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker, you just took apart, like, their entire case,” after he got Volker to acknowledge it was appropriate for President Trump to be worried about corruption in Ukraine and that neither the Americans nor the Ukrainians understood Ukraine would have to announce investigations of Joe and Hunter Biden, the controversial Ukrainian energy firm Burisma or the 2016 presidential campaign to secure a visit, phone call or aid package from the United States.
There was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman being forced to admit he had exaggerated his resume and Tim Morrison, his boss on the National Security Council, saying he considered Vindman to have poor judgment, to be a potential leaker and to have worked around his bosses to carry out his own agenda.
There was Chairman Adam Schiff, to audible gasps from the crowd, being forced to stifle a Vindman answer to avoid identifying the so-called whistleblower whose report started all this even though Schiff has claimed he does not know the identity of the whistleblower.
But to hear the Washington Post tell it, Democrats basically wrapped up the case for impeachment with these witnesses on Tuesday.
“Witnesses undercut Trump’s defense about Ukraine phone call,” the Post wrote in one headline on its website. “Three current and former Trump administration officials described how they harbored a variety of concerns surrounding the July phone call.” The concerns they harbor, of course, are not at issue because presidents – not staffers – determine foreign policy.
The Post devoted an entire piece to Volker’s answer to the question of whether the Ukrainians “understood that they would not get a” meeting, phone call or military or foreign aid from the president “unless they undertook” the investigations.
“Turner declared that this should be game over the impeachment inquiry,” wrote Aaron Blake under the headline “This answer from Kurt Volker makes very little sense.”
“But is it even true?
“There have been in fact myriad indications that Ukraine understood that an Oval Office meeting with Trump might be conditioned upon launching the investigations – including in Volker’s own text messages with a top official.”
He then cites a text that could be read a lot of ways, then veers into a tale about Rudy Giuliani and Andriy Yermak, an aide to President Volodomyr Zelensky.
And in his “7 takeaways from Tuesday’s impeachment hearings,” Blake cited not a single thing that went Republicans’ way.
One was that Volker admitted US Ambassador the European Union Gordon Sondland had made “’a general comment about investigations’ toward the end of the meeting.”
Blake wrote that Volker “said the entire effort” to urge Ukraine to investigate this corruption was wrong.”
Later, he wrote: “Volker also added that there was no basis for Trump and Giuliani’s idea that Joe Biden’s actions in Ukraine – they allege he was trying to shut down an investigation of Burisma to benefit his son, despite plenty of contrary evidence – was improper.”
The evidence that Biden got his son a no-show job for $83,000 per month on the board of an energy company even though his son has no experience with energy is not seriously contested, and it is unclear why Blake continues to insist otherwise. All witnesses who have testified publicly so far have been asked if they thought there was anything improper about Biden getting his son this job when he oversaw the Ukraine portfolio for President Obama, and all have said yes.
Blake got into the moment when Nunes pressed Vindman to identify the people he told about the call with Ukraine and Schiff stopped it when it became clear Vindman would have to identify the whistleblower.
But he concluded there was no problem. “Whoever the whistleblower is, the vast majority of that person’s claims were secondhand and have been confirmed by other witnesses, rendering the whistleblower’s unique insights into the impeachment inquiry somewhat limited.”