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Column: Republicans have no arguments in Trump's investigation. So they try props

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Watching at home the impeachment hearings in Los Angeles, I tried to find out what those big posters behind the Republican committee members were about.

Thursday I was in the front row for the fifth day of House of Representatives hearings in this sad but necessary national trauma. The interview room on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building was chilly; the lights were bright. Camera-laden photographers walked around the front of the room waiting for the orchestrated arrival of witnesses who were brought in by a side door.

I could finally see what the posters were for; they were a trio of childish attacks on Adam Schiff, chairman of the Democratic Intelligence Committee.

Like so many of the Republican rhetoric we've heard in the past two weeks, they didn't even add: "101 days since Adam Schiff learned the whistleblower's identity." "8 days since Adam Schiff claimed he did not know the whistleblower's identity." And the stupid "0 days since Adam Schiff followed the house rules."

At this point, all republicans are meaningless attacks on Schiff.

The praised deep state of the fever dreams of Trump and Steve Bannon appears to be a brigade of incredibly smart, dedicated and patriotic Americans serving their country, no matter which party is in power. The diplomats testified about what they knew or believed to be true: when it came to Ukraine, Trump and all the president's men took part in or knew of a plan to force Ukraine to interfere with American domestic politics by threaten to withhold the necessary military assistance for his war against Russian aggression.

What you don't see when you watch TV is how the players behave when they are not on camera. Most members were attentive to witnesses or read along while National Security Council staff member Fiona Hill and diplomat David Holmes made their opening statements. I was particularly fascinated by the behavior of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the leading member of the intelligence committee, sitting to the left of Schiff. When he was not sarcastic about & # 39; bizarre hearings & # 39 ;, & # 39; this carousel of accusations & # 39 ;, the & # 39; nefarious thought crime & # 39; from the president, he was often absent on stage or behaved like a surly teenager.

Nunes leaned back in his chair, grinned and whispered to his colleagues. At the most dramatic moment of Hill & # 39; s opening statement, in which she punished republicans for promoting "politically driven lies that clearly promote Russian interests", he took a long pull from his white cup and then seemed to chew on ice . Nunes could not have been less impressed.

This was a remarkable contrast to Schiff, who stood upright and paid attention to every moment of testimony.

Every time Nunes spoke, I thought of the joke Joe Biden made about Rudy Giuliani: "There are only three things he needs to make a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11."

In the case of Nunes it is a noun, a verb and a Chalupa. (This is a reference to Alexandra Chalupa, a one-time consultant to the Democratic National Committee and Ukrainian America. She has been accused by Republicans of helping Ukrainians uncover the ties of Paul Manafort in the pro-Russian corrupt former President of Ukraine , Viktor Yanukovich. It is another GOP conspiracy theory.)

Nunes, who seems to think that it is fine for a US president to withhold help from a foreign ally in exchange for political rubbish on his opponent, must be one of the least self-aware politicians in the world. Referring to disproved theories about Ukraine interfering with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections, he demanded that Hill think that & # 39; it is appropriate for political parties to drive agents abroad to dig up dirt against their opponents? & # 39; (Only if they are Republican, I think.)

I heard a ripple of amused laughter behind me, where a few dozen members of the audience sat in the large hearing room with a high ceiling. They had caught Nunes & # 39; unintended irony.

By the afternoon session on Thursday, the Republicans had replaced their most nonsensical poster with a new one: "Witnesses Schiff refused to call." At the top of the list: "The" Whistleblower. "

Is it currently believed that the Democrats are in the majority and have the right to determine the witness list, really that learning the whistleblower's identity will change the trajectory of Trump's alleged accusation?

For the sake of reasoning, let's say the whistleblower is a pro-Bernie-never-trump-Medicare-for-all-loving democrat.

Does that change the fact that the partial transcript of Trump's call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reflected the quid-pro-quo claimed by the whistleblower?

Or the fact that Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, practically shouted in the White House press room yes, we do quid-pro-quo, Get over it?

Or the fact that out of the dozens of testimonies that the public have heard in the last two weeks, no one has contradicted the serious, possibly untouchable allegations that the President had desperately withheld 55 days of military aid from Ukraine to urge Ukrainians to start corruption investigations would that affect former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter? Trump asked Ukraine what Hill described so memorable as & # 39; a domestic political message & # 39 ;.

Or that the personal lawyer of the president, Giuliani, was running around the world about spreading waste theories about US diplomats, the Bidens and Ukraine interfering with the 2016 presidential election?

Former national security adviser John Bolton, Hill testified, told her that Giuliani was "a hand grenade that will blow everyone up."

"And," she said Thursday, "here we are."

Props and stuff.

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