Donald Trump endured a rough week in the headlines and on Capitol Hill. Public support for the impeachment inquiry against him has grown as key witnesses have detailed a clearer picture of the scope of the corruption surrounding his foreign policy. He stands accused of leveraging $391 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a baseless investigation into wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son Hunter. With each witness who has appeared before the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, more doubt has been cast upon Trump’s assertion that he did nothing wrong.
Fiona Hill, the first White House official to cooperate, and an expert in Russia-specific foreign policy, testified that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was attempting to circumvent official diplomatic channels in order to run a shadow foreign policy to the president’s benefit. She told lawmakers in the same 10-hour session that she confronted U.S. EU ambassador, Gordon Sondland about Giuliani’s highly irregular behavior. It is not known how Sondland handled the complaint. Text messages presented to the House Committee show Sondland to have been integral in pressuring Ukraine to open the president’s desired investigations. Hill’s immediate supervisor was former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who was allegedly furious upon learning of Giuliani’s activities. A source familiar with Hill’s testimony recalled Bolton likened the president’s lawyer to a ‘’hand grenade who’s going to blow us all up.’’ Bolton advised Hill to express her concerns to White House counsel. Given his position in the administration, Hill’s testimony raises the prospect that Bolton may be called to share what he knows before the committee.
George Kent, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, working on Ukraine matters, painted a similarly damning picture. Before the same committee he testified that acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, selected three Trump political appointees to oversee the president’s agenda in Ukraine. Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly, who was present at the hearings, relayed Kent’s testimony to the press. He stated State Department officials had been shelved in favor of Energy Secretary Ricky Perry, Sondland, and special envoy Kurt Volker, the former two being hand-picked by Trump. Kent was told to ‘’lay low’’ after voicing his concerns about Giuliani.
Mick Mulvaney was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. His name came up in both the testimony of Hill and Kent. Taken together he appears to have played a facilitating role in the president’s transgressions. The combined word of two career foreign policy experts have him putting key players in the scheme in place, and personally partaking in the ‘’drug deal’’ as John Bolton described the arrangement. Trump has admitted he withheld military aid to Ukraine. He has admitted he strongly pushed their president to initiate an investigation into a political rival. The one saving grace in his incredulous defense has been: ‘’there was no quid pro quo.’’ Mulvaney put the last holes in that sinking ship at a televised press conference from the White House. He acknowledged an investigation into the 2016 election was one of the reasons for the release of the aid in question. When presented with the fact that what he’d just described was a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded: ‘’We do it all the time’’ and added ‘’get over it.’’ Mulvaney’s admission came as a shock and put Trump’s allies in an increasingly precarious position.
Public support for the impeachment inquiry crossed the 50% threshold for the first time this week. That number exceeds even the sunniest number for Trump’s job approval. The inquiry has gained momentum and shows no sign of letting up given Mulvaney’s gaffe and the president’s failing attempts at obstruction. At this point all Trump backers can do is promote the incorrect talking point that the inquiry is illegitimate without a vote in the House. Removing this president through conviction in a Senate trial remains a tall order, but with each incriminating development, the prospect seems more plausible.
Photo by Alejandro Barba