WASHINGTON: Discredit the witnesses, dismiss the accusations against President Donald Trump as hearsay, shift the focus to the Bidens, unmask the whistleblower.
The outlines of the White House defense are clear after Day One of the impeachment hearings in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Trump claimed he was “too busy” to watch the first round of public hearings that could see him potentially removed from office for abuse of power.
But that didn’t stop him from firing off a string of tweets defending his actions and following it up with another tweetstorm on Thursday morning.
Most of the posts were links to television clips of Republican lawmakers mounting a robust defense of the president during the hearing in the House Intelligence Committee.
At a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump dismissed the inquiry into his conduct as a “sham” and a “joke” and said it “shouldn’t be allowed.” Top White House counselor Kellyanne Conway made the rounds of the television networks Thursday morning to hammer home the Republican talking points.
“We learned that the Democrats really have no case against the president,” Conway said on Fox News. “The president is being treated unfairly. “If this was a real court of law and not Adam Schiff’s kangaroo court objections would have been flying from any reasonable attorney,” she said in a reference to the California congressman chairing the hearings.
Picking up the Republican argument that the charges against Trump are hearsay, Conway said: “You tune in and you’re either sound asleep or you can’t follow — he said, she said, she said, he said — it’s a bunch of gossip girls.” Like Republican lawmakers did at the hearing, Conway took aim at the unidentified whistleblower who sounded the initial alarm about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.
During the call, Trump asked for an investigation into his potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Trump’s request to a foreign counterpart to provide political dirt on an election opponent is at the heart of just the fourth attempt to impeach a president in US history. “We want to know what the whistleblower said in the first place because we need to confront our accuser,” Conway said.
Jim Jordan, a Republican congressman from Ohio, echoed Conway’s preoccupation with the whistleblower in an appearance on the “Fox & Friends” show.
“We all want the whistleblower to hold up their right hand and testify so we can see what kind of motivations and bias they have,” Jordan said.
Jordan, a former college wrestler, has earned a reputation as a tough questioner and was added by the Republicans to the Intelligence Committee to play a leading role in Trump’s defense.
Jordan sought to chip away on Wednesday at the credibility of the first two witnesses — William Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a career State Department official.
Both witnesses acknowledged under questioning from Jordan that they were not listening to the Trump-Zelensky call and had never met the president.
“These are the first two star witnesses in this impeachment sham process they’ve got going and neither one talked to the president,” Jordan said.
As for the Bidens, a lawyer for the Republican side made a point of mentioning during the hearing that Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 a month to serve on the Burisma board and questioned whether he had any qualifications other than being the son of the then-vice president.
“Vice president Biden had Ukraine in his portfolio,” she said, “and it does strike people as swampy, if not worse, that his son would have a seat on Burisma, an energy company being investigated.” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, dismissed the Republican arguments as an attempt to divert attention from the “substance of what we have heard” — and the core accusations against Trump.
“The president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid (to Ukraine) and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival — a clear attempt by the president to give himself the advantage in the 2020 election,” Pelosi told reporters.