The air is getting very thin up there

The air is getting very thin up on the hill that Trump’s supporters have obviously chosen to die on. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that the House is going to have a vote on the impeachment inquiry on Thursday that will result in the public hearings Republicans have been demanding so vehemently that they felt the need to storm the SCIF in which witnesses were being deposed behind closed doors. Pelosi’s move is effectively going to cut off the oxygen to the argument Donald Trump’s stooges have been making that the inquiry constitutes a secretive and entirely partisan effort to remove the president and thereby illegitimately annul the will of the people.

Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not shy away from stepping in front of the cameras on Tuesday morning to make yet another process argument against the investigation that has been well underway for quite some time now and that has already brought to light a mountain of truly damning evidence against Donald Trump. The spin he tried to put on the situation in his very word-salady statement was that the impending vote was an admission on Speaker Pelosi’s parts that the Democrats had been engaging in “sham” proceedings and were now trying to retroactively right this wrong. According to McCarthy, this was not going to work: “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he judged sternly. Then he went on to talk about due process in a somewhat garbled way and – for good measure – threw in the ominous sounding term “fruit from the poisonous tree”, all which probably sounds like impressive legalese if you’re a low information Trump supporter. Finally, the Minority Leader declared the Democrats’ impeachment efforts a mistrial and essentially demanded that the process should end right then and there.

However, House Democrats continued holding hearings and questioning witnesses, quite unimpressed by the antics of Kevin McCarthy and other Trump surrogates. Tuesday’s star witness was Alexander Vindman, an active White House official and NSC member who was physically present during Donald Trump’s fateful July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. The testimony of a first-hand witness to the call seriously undercuts the “hearsay” defense that the Trump camp has been making against the original whistleblower whose complaint had launched the current investigation. Flimsy as this defense may have been from the beginning, it also seems to have been everything Trump’s defenders have had up their sleeves. Every single argument Republicans have so far made against impeaching Donald Trump has been about process. There hasn’t been a shred of exculpatory evidence showing that the sitting president has not become guilty of impeachable crimes and misdemeanors. It is unlikely that this is going to change, even as the public hearings congressional Republicans have demanded will get underway.

Meanwhile, as the methodical gathering of evidence in a process that goes to the heart of U.S. governance is still taking place behind closed doors, it turns out that some Republicans are not even making use of the access they have to the proceedings. Representative Ted Yoho revealed on CNN that he was not going to be present at the deposition of Alexander Vindman, even though he is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He also said he had not attended any of the previous hearings in the context of the impeachment inquiry. “I see this as a sideshow,” he declared. If this leaves you pretty breathless, you’re not the only one.

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