Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee just threw in the towel and stopped asking questions altogether to a pair of impeachment hearing witnesses with damning facts, instead preferring to obviously run out the clock.
One Ohio Republican’s five-minutes long non-question “question” was so nervously delivered that counsel to one of the witnesses stopped and asked him if he actually had a question, which led to him quite literally being laughed out of the room.
Minority members broke down and admitted they have no questions or points to make with competent fact witnesses like Daniel Holmes and Fiona Hill, but they couldn’t even run out the clock for questioning without allowing damning expert testimony that stripped bare their obsequiousness to Donald Trump.
Daniel Holmes is a top official at the US embassy in Kyiv serving as senior advisor and political director to former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and current Charge d’affaires Amb. Bill Taylor. His riveting opening statement delivered firsthand knowledge of President Trump’s corrupt intent to use the office of the presidency to solicit political favors.
Dr. Fiona Hill served as the National Security Counsel’s (NSC) top expert on Russia and Europe. Her potent impeachment testimony publicly scolded Trump’s GOP defenders pushing the “Crowdstrike server” fiction which originates from President Putin and Russian security services, shutting down their primary remaining distraction defenses.
Midway through the hearing, minority members began to visibly stumble while handling their time to question the witnesses, starting when ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) abruptly cut off GOP Counsel Steve Castor when his line of questioning Hill proved immensely damning, bringing it to a whimpering conclusion.
That’s when Ohio Republican member Jim Jordan—most famous for turning a blind eye to sex abuse while he was an Ohio State University wrestling coach — took the mic and proceeded to try and fast-talk Holmes.
He asked a couple of meaningless questions at the end of his five minutes, then proceeded to badger the witness when his time expired to the point where Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) had to gavel him out of order multiple times.
“Mr. Jordan, you may not like the witness’s answer,” said Schiff, “but we will hear it.” The foreign service officer’s rejoinder to Jordan was precise, and even used some of the many facts from the Congressman’s own lengthy screed to debunk the former wrestling coach’s latest defense.”
Yesterday, it was Jordan whose line of questioning drew open laughter from witness Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Today, it was his in-state colleague Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) that kicked off a string of question avoidance which utterly transformed the House Republican position from attack at all costs to shutting down all questioning of the two witnesses recounting extraordinarily damaging testimony for Donald Trump.
Turner began by saying he had a question for Dr. Hill. The former NSC expert leaned in to listen intently while the congressman’s question went on, and on and on until it reached its bizarre conclusion. Rep. Turner finally ran out of breath and asked the witnesses an ignorantly ironic question if they “want to be the laughingstock of history?”
The Ohio Republican took a deep breath at the end of his rant, then said he had a “question for Daniel Holmes” but needed to gulp for air again, and that’s when Dr. Hill’s attorney from Boies, Schiller, Flexner simply asked, “Is there a question for Dr. Hill?”
Laughter erupted inside the room.
Everyone laughed at GOP Rep. Mike Turner for asking Fiona Hill a "question" that turned into a five-minutes-long rant, where he barely paused to take a breath turning to Daniel Holmes, and her lawyer asked:
"Is there a question for Dr. Hill?"#ImpeachmentHearings
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) November 21, 2019
Rep. Turner didn’t take well to being laughed at, grimaced, and resumed his rant, presumably directed at Holmes, who only moments earlier completely undressed the sound and fury of his Ohio colleague which signified nothing.
Mike Turner left of the room after his questioning ended.
Turner just yelled at Hill for a whole three minutes and then left without hearing her answer and walked into the secret room in the back. pic.twitter.com/lpTwLCRlzB
— Kadia Goba (@kadiagoba) November 21, 2019
Later in the impeachment hearing, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) felt obligated to apologize to Dr. Hill on Turner’s behalf for having to endure his “epic mansplaining.”
But Rep. Turner’s rant was the beginning of a trend among GOP questioners, which itself indicated that House Republicans have mostly run out of energy to defend President Trump after just the fifth day of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings on impeachment.
The next minority member up, Rep. Dr. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), preferred to nakedly avoid asking any witness questions and instead talk safely and securely about his military service for the entirety of the five-minute block and pulling off a complete filibuster before spending just a moment defending House Republicans for spreading Russian propaganda — or so he thought.
Dr. Hill asked Rep. Schiff for time to respond after the Ohio Republican’s rant ran out the clock, and the Chair obliged.
“I thought what Dr. Wenstrup said was very powerful, about the importance of overcoming hatred and certainly partisan division. It’s unfortunate that Congressman Turner and Ratcliffe have left as well because all of us who came here under a legal obligation felt we had a moral obligation as well,” said Fiona Hill without interruption, pausing to emphasize that, “We are fact witnesses.”
She continued to say that it was unfortunate that a few scattered Ukrainian officials publicly attacked Donald Trump during the campaign when he all but forced them to defend their country’s sovereignty by publicly praising Russia’s forcible annexation of their territory in Crimea. Earlier in the hearing, Dr. Hill had noted that there was no top-down plan from former Ukrainian President Poroshenko and the ambassador who wrote a single op-ed criticizing Trump was recalled after his election.
Fiona Hill is a known “Russia hawk” who always seemed an odd choice for the Trump Administration considering the president’s unabashed love for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and she proceeded to explain why she accepted a job offer at the White House two years ago.
“I wanted to come in to serve the country to see if I could help,” the former NSC Europe and Russia director began her conclusion matter of factly, before stunning the Republican member with a warm compliment that made him visibly chagrined after Dr. Hill finished her response to his speech at length (video below):
I heard President Trump say that he wanted to improve relations with Russia. I believe we have to. We can’t be in this unending confrontation with Russia. We have to find a way to stabilize that relationship and professionalize that relationship. As well as to stop them from doing what they did in 2016 again in 2020. This is really the crux of the issue that I and others are trying to put across and you’ve put across very eloquently.
The other matters related to this inquiry, we are just here just to provide what we know and what we heard. I understand for many members this may be ‘hearsay.’ I’ve talked about things I heard, with my own ears. I understand that Ambassador Sondland has said a lot of things. I have told you what he told me and what others told me. A lot of other people have said things to me again as well, and also to Mr. Holmes. We are here to relate to you what we heard, what we saw and what we did, and to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here.
We are not the people who make that decision.
And I do again want to underscore what you said here Dr. Wenstrup, it was very eloquent, and very moving about your service, and trying to bring us all together again as Americans. We need to be together again in 2020, so the American people can make a choice about the future, and make their votes in a presidential election without any fear that this is being interfered in from any quarter whatsoever. So, I just wanted to thank you for making what I think was also a very elegant, and eloquent heartfelt defense.
After Dr. Hill’s impassioned, nearly four-minute speech, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) asked her a personal question to lighten the mood in the room, before resuming serious questions about the impeachment inquiry before giving way to the next House Republican member.
Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart started his five minutes by thanking the witnesses and matter of factly underscored his forthcoming soliloquy of jibber-jabber GOP talking points by saying, “I actually have no questions for you that haven’t already been asked, or have any points to make that haven’t already been made.” He launched into a lengthy speech without making any points and drained his five minutes in meaningless talking points.
Republicans have given up on asking questions from Hill and Holmes it seems. They’re just ranting, like they’re nervous what the pair will say if given a chance. The wheels have completely come off.
— Cameron Joseph (@cam_joseph) November 21, 2019
The net effect of seeing Republicans give up entirely on questions during a forty-minute nationally televised public hearing was like watching the stopper taken out of a bathtub and all of the water draining, only the water, in this case, is debunked GOP conspiracy theories.
Dr. Hill’s steely, even-tempered testimony steamrolled Trump’s defenders. There was just no way to argue with her words and GOP minority members of the House Intelligence Committee did not look the same throughout the rest of the meeting, because they were visibly deflated by the sheer intelligence and intellect of a woman who left her family behind in England’s coal country and emigrated to America for a better life as a graduate student before spending the better part of two decades in service of her country, including over two years of loyal, nonpartisan service to President Donald J. Trump.
Watch the complete exchange between Rep. Wenstrup and Dr. Fiona Hill here:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.