By imperial decree — or at least by presidential tweet — Donald Trump has declared that the “Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER!” after today’s testimony from the U.S. ambassador to the EU, Trump’s own political appointee Gordon Sondland.
That’s the same conclusion reached by many other people including the former prosecutor of the Bill Clinton impeachment, Kenneth Starr, whose own response to the testimony he heard was:
“There will be articles of impeachment, I think we’ve known that … It’s over … This is his position, we now know that the president, in fact, committed the crime of bribery…The articles of impeachment are being drawn up, if they haven’t already been drawn up. … This obviously has been one of those bombshell days,” said the former independent counsel. “The real issue is the senators are watching,” Starr said.
“Are senators going to now say in light of what we hear today, it’s going to be a long day even with the ambassador alone, in light of what we have heard, ‘We need to make a trip down to the White House’? That historic example set during the Nixon presidency. From what I’ve been able to glean I don’t think that’s going to happen. But obviously what happens today could—has the potential to be a game-changer.”
Ken Starr: "There will be articles of impeachment, I think we've known that … It's over … This is his position, we now know that the president, in fact, committed the crime of bribery … Articles of impeachment are being drawn up if they haven't already been drawn up." pic.twitter.com/82NOwczpej
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 20, 2019
The president’s explanation for his unilateral and impotent pronouncement of the end of the impeachment inquiry was considerably different.
In a highly defensive tweet this afternoon, Trump selectively chose the all-caps quotes from the ambassador — who had donated a million dollars to his campaign in exchange for involvement in a scandal that he hadn’t signed up for — that he felt exonerated him while ignoring the bulk of the testimony that was incredibly damning to the president and many of the most senior members of his administration.
….”I WANT NOTHING! I WANT NOTHING! I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO! TELL PRESIDENT ZELENSKY TO DO THE RIGHT THING!” Later, Ambassador Sondland said that I told him, “Good, go tell the truth!” This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2019
The contrasting interpretations by Trump and the former independent counsel in many ways are not so far apart, given that they both conclude that today’s testimony from Sondland is the beginning of the end in the impeachment inquiry and that a swift conclusion to the proceedings is necessary to prevent further harm to the United States.
Trump’s attempts at spinning the damning sworn deposition from the ambassador into an exoneration with terminal results for the impeachment inquiry was not particularly successful judging from the reactions of people following the action on Twitter.
Strange how tRump waited until September to say that. Months after the crime was already committed.
— Mike Mazda (@mnissan22) November 20, 2019
He may avoid conviction in the Senate, but with a majority of the American people supporting impeachment, many Republicans may be disgusted enough with Trump to split the vote and cause him to lose the election.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) November 20, 2019
It’s over. The next few weeks may be rough. I’m a moderate young Republican sick to my stomach over the GOP’s actions this week. Our country needs SAVING now! And then healing. I’m running to be a voice of sanity in the GOP. I will work with Dems.
Every follow here helps ❤️
— Nathaniel #CountryOverParty (@NewGopforUSA) November 20, 2019
Despite the pushback from those paying close attention to the hearings, Trump knows that a portion of the public that remains in his dwindling base will simply accept whatever he tweets out no matter what the actual facts are.
That these folks are too dense to realize that the president’s attempts to prevent testimony from key witnesses — by making them defy congressional subpoenas and to withhold evidence from the committees conducting the investigation — are not that types of actions taken by someone with nothing to hide merely demonstrate that the slavish beliefs of his Fox News-brainwashed cult are more powerful than their reasoning ability.
Eventually they — and Trump himself — will have to face the facts that you can’t call it a witch hunt after you’ve been discovered stirring a boiling pot of eye of newt and toadstools while wearing a pointed hat and performing incantations. At this point, the stakes are being readied as the president and his Republican supporters will soon have to admit.