The impeachment hearings made riveting TV. Highly respected and decorated senior foreign service diplomats gave damning testimony. There is bribery, a pair of shady “businessmen” from Ukraine, smear campaigns, an anti-corruption ambassador with 30 years service ousted, a Trump donor who bought himself the ambassadorship to the European Union meddling in Ukraine’s politics, a cellphone call from a Kyev restaurant to the President on an unsecured cellphone — and Rudy Giuliani! It’s like a John le Carré novel without smart people. Yet some news reports claimed initially that there was substance, but no drama:
Analysis: The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to President Trump’s scheme, but lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention. https://t.co/1UfkaeZ3I4
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 14, 2019
We know better now, so let’s ask the question: What has happened to this country? Is it because we have a reality show host as president? Maybe we’re too consumed with reality TV and the dramatic doings of the Real Housewives of [Name That Advertising Market]? While I’m a devotee of Bravo — proudly, I admit — I also understand that reality TV is not real life. The American people are so used to over-the-top antics on YouTube, crazy people doing stupid things so they can go viral, do we not understand anymore what is real drama and what is not?
What this president has done to undermine our national security, to intimidate a witness under oath before Congress as she testified, would have shocked and appalled my parents’ generation. An impeachment hearing to unearth possible high crimes and misdemeanors of a sitting president is not a joke. These hearings are not for our entertainment. They are not a dog-and-pony show. This is not The Real Ambassadors to Ukraine.
From the testimony of Bill Taylor, the acting US Ambassador to Ukraine, we learned of a shadow State Department successfully engaging in a smear against then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch, and of all the dirty tricks and debunked conspiracy theories. Trump and Giuliani got Yovanovitch fired so they could pave the way for what they thought was a new guy who wouldn’t cause trouble as they pressured the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s main political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, by withholding Congressionally authorized military aid and denying Zelensky a White House meeting.
These dimwits didn’t realize that Ambassador Taylor took extensive notes. In his opening statement, he made quite clear the not-very-quiet understanding that US military aid to Ukraine was withheld Ukraine announced an investigation into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company in that country where Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, sat on the board.
Taylor gave the most stunning testimony of his day of the hearings when he said that one of his aides, while lunching outside a Kiev restaurant in broad daylight, witnessed Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, use his personal cell phone to call Trump to discuss the Zelensky quid pro quo. On his personal cell phone. Outside. Even I know that Russia was listening! And probably China!
That aide, David Holmes, a career foreign service officer, gave closed-door testimony:
Holmes said that during the lunch, Sondland said that he was going to call Trump to “give him an update,” and then did so on his mobile phone.
“I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelenskiy ‘loves your ass.’ I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?'” Holmes recounted, according to the statement. “Ambassador Sondland replied, that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelenskiy will do, ‘anything you ask him to.'”
So there we are, back to reality TV land.
This past Friday, the beleaguered Yovanovitch got on the wrong side of two disreputable people: Giuliani and Yuri Lutsenko, the prosecutor general of Ukraine under that country’s previous administration. She clearly recounted how they started a smear campaign against her by spreading a completely fabricated story about her giving him a list of people that she didn’t want him to prosecute. (Lutsenko has since recanted that story.) And to make sure Trump would get rid of her, they baselessly called Yovanovitch a Trump critic who bad-mouthed the president in private.
It was during her testimony that this corrupt, unhinged, backed-into-a-corner president attempted to intimidate Yovanovitch in real time:
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
Sure, to some people — like the anti-American cult member traitors of Team Trump — this is boring, this lacks drama and pizzazz, this cast of The Real Ambassadors to Ukraine need to step it up if they want a season renewal. Maybe they’d rather talk abut what Trump said about A$AP Rocky and the Kardashians. But lately I’m not so sure. Within the last month, Kentucky and Louisiana voters elected Democratic governors the day after Trump held a rally for the GOP candidate. In Louisiana, after Trump literally begged for voters to him a win, Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards won re-election.
We don’t need pizzazz and this is not a snooze-fest, no matter what Fox and Friends tells you. Voters are watching. It’s sinking in that this administration is corrupt, dirty, run by third-rate cronies, and it’s all just beginning. Sharpen your pencils. Take notes. Take a lot of them. There’s a lot more to come.