By Dana Milbank Columnist Dec. 11, 2019 at 3:19 a.m. GMT+3 ~ Courtesy of Washington Post
The ceremonial Rayburn Room just off the House floor has twin chandeliers, twin fireplaces with twin mantels, twin mirrors and twin sets of candlesticks, and twin urns in twin niches. And it was here that Democrats on Tuesday unveiled their twin articles of impeachment: Abuse and Obstruction.
Plain and Simple.
“Overwhelming and uncontested,” said Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), standing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and various committee chairs.
No relitigating the Mueller report, no laundry list of grievances against President Trump. Just the known details of wrongdoing in the Ukraine affair. “The facts are not seriously contested,” Schiff said.
“Seriously” was the operative word, for at that very moment, Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, stood nearby, preparing to contest the Democrats’ claims in an unserious way. Outside the room where Democrats made their announcement, Collins gazed into a Fox News camera, listening to a live feed of the event and then giving Fox viewers his hot take.
He said Schiff is “running a sham process” and committing “complete malpractice.” He said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is “obsessed” with violating his oath of office and “he drug (sic) everybody else with him.” He said the Democrats have no “evidence of fact” and “no case.” He claimed “the White House was willing to participate,” its actions notwithstanding. This, Collins charged, is “the most partisan impeachment on the most less facts of any we’ve seen.”
The most less facts! But he didn’t challenge any of them.
Observing this performance with a look of amusement was the bronze statue of humorist Will Rogers. Perhaps the cowboy philosopher anticipated Collins when he observed that “once a man wants to hold a public office, he is absolutely no good for honest work.”
It’s often said that a lie can travel halfway across the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. But the truth gained ground this week. For two years, Trump and his defenders howled about a politically motivated FBI spying on his campaign. This week, the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded no such thing occurred. And while Attorney General Bill Barr continued to assert the fiction, FBI Director Christopher Wray bravely spoke out, calling Trump’s “deep state” conspiracy theory an “affront” and saying the FBI has “no information” implicating Ukraine in election interference — a key element of Republicans’ impeachment defense. (Wray’s truth-telling earned a presidential attack on Twitter.)
Now Trump is launching similar smears against impeachment investigators. He threatened the “totally corrupt” Schiff on Tuesday, saying Schiff will “have to answer” for “committing this fraud.”
The best response to a big lie is to repeat the simple truth — and that’s what Pelosi and her chairmen did Tuesday. The rollout was a bit clumsy: Pelosi seemed momentarily to forget the name of Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) wandered in 10 minutes late.Opinion | Impeachment: Why so much is at stake
But Democrats were disciplined — the articles didn’t leak — and succinct as they summarized “Trump’s efforts to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 elections,” which “compromised our national security and threatened the integrity of our elections.” Both articles mention that Trump’s offenses are “consistent with” previous behavior, without mentioning the Mueller findings.
That’s as it should be, for the evidence in the Ukraine case is stark. As Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) summarized Monday, investigators learned that Trump: sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden; directed two ambassadors to work with Giuliani; fired an anticorruption ambassador to Ukraine; told Vice President Pence not to go to the Ukrainian inauguration; had his staff chief withhold Ukraine’s military assistance; refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president; ignored his advisers’ anti-corruption talking points; asked the Ukrainian president for “a favor” and for an investigation into opponent Biden; confirmed it publicly; asked China to do the same; and blocked investigators from learning more.
And he’s still doing it: Giuliani visited Ukraine last week to continue his quest for political dirt.
CBS News’s Nancy Cordes asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday if Giuliani’s antics are “appropriate.”
“That is not the question that we have before us,” he said.
ABC News’s Terry Moran asked McCarthy if he agreed that it’s “perfect” for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate Trump’s political rival.
“That’s not what’s before us,” McCarthy repeated.
In lieu of refuting these points, McCarthy angrily tossed a word salad at reporters: “Why do you fall into a trap of an idea when we’re talking about the highest elected office in this land and in this entire world that they’re so brazen that they just the dislike that they will change the rule of law to impeach him?”
That’s the “most less facts” I’ve ever heard.