After Public Hearings, Impeachment Proceedings Break For Thanksgiving
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
After two weeks of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, lawmakers are taking a break for Thanksgiving. Whether the House Intelligence Committee will hold more public hearings remains to be seen. Here's Committee Chair Adam Schiff yesterday on NBC's "Meet The Press With Chuck Todd."
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CHUCK TODD: Right now, no public hearings scheduled for anytime in the rest of this year.
ADAM SCHIFF: But we don't foreclose the possibility of others.
MARTIN: Both Democrats and Republicans have claimed that the witness testimonies corroborated their version of what took place with Ukraine. So who's got the upper hand? Conservative writer Jonah Goldberg is here with us this morning in studio. He is the editor-in-chief of The Dispatch.
JONAH GOLDBERG: Always great to be here.
MARTIN: Who's got the advantage right now?
GOLDBERG: I think, essentially, the Trump White House has the advantage.
MARTIN: How so?
GOLDBERG: In the sense that this is not their - there's asymmetric scoring going on here. Because the burden of proof is so much greater to remove a president - politically, just to get people to go in on what they feel is a really radical act - that the evidence that you have to bring has to be of such a nature that it really does start flipping voters. That's the only way you get pressure on the quote-unquote "jurors" in the Senate.
And so I think, as a matter of just the pure merits of it, the Democrats won. Right? They - but it's sort of like in boxing, sometimes you can't win just on points, you have to win on a knockout. The Democrats did not have the political equivalent of a knockout here. I think it is transparently obvious that they made the case that the Trump White House inappropriately put pressure on the Ukrainians to launch an investigation on Joe Biden. I think the merits of their argument wins. It's like, if you were grading it in a class, you give it an A.
MARTIN: But it didn't convince people.
GOLDBERG: But - yeah. But it didn't...
MARTIN: Or enough of the right people to make a difference in the Senate.
GOLDBERG: We've actually seen polling now that says that people who are in favor of impeachment and removal are less in favor after two weeks than they were before. They've lost support of independents for this. And whether that's because people think, OK, he did it, but I don't think it's that big a deal, or what, I don't know. But it is not - the momentum inside of Washington among people who truly are paying attention is that - man, they stuck the landing, and they made the persuasive case. And then everybody else is like, I don't know.
MARTIN: Can I ask, though, a little more about the Republican strategy here? Because they seem to be leaning into this conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 election, not Russia. One of the witnesses, Fiona Hill, a former official at the NSC, talked about the risk of this in her testimony. I want to play a clip of it.
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FIONA HILL: Based on questions and statements I've heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country, and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
MARTIN: And the president of the United States because this is one of the investigations that he wanted to happen. This is...
MARTIN: ...What he was pressuring Ukraine to do. Senator John Kennedy, yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," repeating this conspiracy theory. I mean, does - what impact does this have for Republicans? Are there political consequences for this?
GOLDBERG: Well, it remains to be seen whether there are political consequences. I think there will probably be historical consequences because none of them are covering themselves in glory. When Fiona Hill first released that testimony - it was funny - a lot of friends of mine on the right thought it was really unfair to Republicans - the smarter Republicans on the Hill and the people who were making the arguments in defense of the president. They're saying, look, we haven't done that. We haven't pushed the idea that Ukraine hacked the election.
The problem - and they're largely right. It was a little unfair to certain Republicans. Problem is, it was absolutely fair about the president of the United States. The CrowdStrike thing in the phone call with the Ukrainian president, to me, is in some ways more disturbing than the Biden stuff because...
MARTIN: This is the name of the firm - it's confusing, but this is word that signifies this particular investigation.
GOLDBERG: And that is precisely the problem. I had an argument with a Fox radio host the other day and - Brian Kilmeade, and he's a friend of mine, and I like him a lot. And he was like, look, I just think the CrowdStrike thing is so confusing. I don't even go into that. That's the problem. The CrowdStrike thing is bonkers. It is bat guano crazy. And that the president of the United States...
MARTIN: Because it's false.
GOLDBERG: It's flat-out false. It is literally impossible. The president of the United States - what? - on Friday was telling "Fox & Friends" on the phone that he thinks the server, which is not a thing, actually is in Ukraine, like the crate at the end of the "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" movie or something.
MARTIN: The president believes there are these mythical, missing Democratic emails that...
GOLDBERG: That are physically on a single server. When in reality, there were hundreds of servers. There wasn't just one server. He thinks that the co-owner of this company is Ukrainian - he's not. I mean, it's a complete bonkers conspiracy theory.
MARTIN: But the implication of that is if you spin up enough lies, that people will just say oh, it's too confusing.
GOLDBERG: That's right.
MARTIN: I can't deal with it.
GOLDBERG: There's no consistency to a lot of the Republican arguments because they were literally throwing everything on the dinner table at the wall to see what would stick. And that was effective because it turned a lot of people off.
MARTIN: Will you come back, and we can talk more...
GOLDBERG: (Laughter) Sure.
MARTIN: When there's more witness testimony - or not...
MARTIN: ...And whatever development transpires? Jonah Goldberg. He's the editor-in-chief of The Dispatch. We appreciate you, Jonah. Thank you.
GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.