Meanwhile, in the Republican version of reality

Jonathan Bernstein:

To close the Republicans’ argument after five long days of public hearings, Nunes chose to utterly ignore any of the evidence presented — he challenged absolutely none of it, nor did he argue why the allegations were not serious enough to merit impeachment — and instead gave a timeline that proved, he said, that “the whistle-blower’s complaint was a pretext” for an impeachment that Democrats intended anyway.

The pivotal date for him was July 24, when Robert Mueller testified before Congress. Some opponents of the president have speculated that Donald Trump believed he was bulletproof after Mueller’s appearance, and that explains his behavior on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. I’m pretty skeptical of that theory; it ascribes the kind of careful plotting to Trump that is not much in evidence elsewhere. Nor is there much evidence that Trump was on better behavior earlier. And besides, by July the Mueller report was old news, and Trump had long since declared himself exonerated, whatever the report actually said. So I don’t buy it at all.

But then there’s Nunes: “July 25, just the next day, a new anti-Trump operation begins, as someone listens to the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and leaks the evidence to the so-called whistle-blower.”

Here’s where I need a portmanteau for “inane” and “insane.”

Nunes would have us believe not only that the whistle-blower was able to line up a dozen or so foreign-policy and national-security professionals, many of whom were hired by Trump, to testify that they found the call inappropriate (none of them were Democrats, but apparently the whistle-blower’s lawyer has represented Democrats, so that’s something), but also that this whistle-blower apparently was able to manipulate the events themselves, including scheduling the phone call, in order to produce the raw material for this smear. Perhaps he or she also had planted all the seeds of what Rudy Giuliani and the “Three Amigos” and all had been doing for months, just in case the Mueller thing didn’t work out. I suppose there’s at least one alternative: that Trump makes calls like that so often that of course the whistle-blower could show up at the office on July 25 and get to work knowing something would turn up. 

That’s what we’re being asked to believe. [emphases mine]

Maybe Nunes didn’t really mean what he implied — that it was the whistle-blower, acting as part of an anti-Trump conspiracy with House Democrats, who set the entire thing in motion. Listen to his statement; I think that’s what he was saying.

Even if we put that aside, however, there is a logical fallacy at the root of all this. For Nunes, the Democrats are determined to impeach Donald Trump and have been from the start regardless of the evidence. In fact, for Nunes, the evidence is entirely irrelevant to the Democrats, which is why he has no need to refute or even recognize the existence of any of it (indeed, there were reports that Nunes typically walked out of of the room while Schiff and the Democratic counsel questioned witnesses). 

But if that were true, why Ukraine? Why not just impeach Trump over the Russia scandal? After all, if the evidence is irrelevant, there’s no reason at all for Democrats to (supposedly) invent a new scandal when they have a perfectly good old one. Sure, Republicans have decided that the Mueller report exonerated him, but Democrats (and anyone else who read the report or watched Mueller’s testimony) don’t think that. It simply can’t be the case that Democrats are intent on impeaching Trump no matter what the evidence says and that they needed to invent the Ukraine story because the Russia one wouldn’t do.

What, then, is Nunes really saying? What Trump says: This is a witch hunt, meaning in Trump’s odd vocabulary a hunt by witches, and investigations by witches are inherently illegitimate. So if Schiff is a witch, and Nancy Pelosi is a witch, and the witnesses are witches, and the whistle-blower was most definitely a witch, then they have no basis for action against the president, and it doesn’t really matter what so-called evidence they might present. Is that a stretch? Maybe, but it’s a lot less inane/insane than what Nunes is asking us to believe.

And this super-depressing article in Buzzfeed:

But there are two impeachment hearings unfolding in the nation’s capital. One, carried out by the Democrats, is designed to ascertain the truth as to whether Trump sought a “quid pro quo” deal with Ukraine to get the country to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 presidential election in exchange for aid money. The other, being carried out simultaneously by the Republicans, is quite different. Instead of trying to learn the truth, it seeks to create not just a counternarrative but a completely separate reality.

Each round of GOP questioning is not meant to interrogate the witnesses, which today included Sondland, but instead to create moments that can be flipped into Fox News segments, shared as bite-size Facebook posts, or dropped into 4chan threads. Their alternate universe — built from baseless online conspiracy theories and reading the tea leaves of Trump’s Twitter feed — dominates Fox News and Facebook. And the Republicans’ strategy, as confusing and bizarre as it may seem to those on the outside, is working…

For every piece on Facebook about impeachment from a mainstream publication, there are dozens of unhinged right-wing conspiracies going viral on the social network. A post with a transcript from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show titled “George Kent Made The Case For Investigating The Bidens” (15,000 engagements) was ranked third among this week’s stories with the most engagement about George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who testified publicly last week. “Impeachment Witness Bill Taylor Admits: I Can ‘Tell You What I Heard From People’” (37,600 engagements) by right-wing news site Western Journal was the third-most-shared story about Taylor.

And David Hopkins on the regrettable conclusion that not even the most gettable Republican, Will Hurd, was actually gettable and what this suggests going forward:

In many ways, the Ukraine affair is shaping up to follow the same pattern as innumerable other incidents over the past several years: an explosive, even unprecedented set of events and factual disclosures that yet change few minds on either side of a solidifying partisan divide. Some critics have suggested that Democrats are making a mistake by moving so quickly toward impeachment. But it seems clear that, whatever other benefits might have been gained from a slower process, a spontaneous emergence of bipartisanship would not have been among them. If Will Hurd isn’t even wavering after the past two weeks of testimony, how many Republicans would ever have jumped?

I honestly cannot believe we are now in a world where a president can be this egregiously guilty of abusing his office for personal gain at the expense of national security and his party defends him no matter what behind debunked and inane conspiracy theories.  That should make anybody worry for our country.

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