Now it begins.
The House will begin the public phase of its impeachment inquiry Wednesday with Democrats and Republicans prepared to offer competing narratives of whether President Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, during televised hearings that could determine the fate of his presidency.
With separate practice sessions and in opposing memos, the two parties signaled Tuesday how they planned to present radically different interpretations of Trump’s actions and whether they were impeachable.
Democrats expressed confidence that Wednesday’s hearing would begin a serious and somber process of publicly exposing Trump’s misconduct, narrated by career diplomats who were alarmed by the president’s push to have Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as a debunked theory concerning the 2016 election, in exchange for military aid and a White House visit coveted by Ukraine’s new leader.
“It’s time for these witnesses to go before the American people and lay out what they saw in this extortion scheme,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which will be host to the public proceedings.
In mock hearings at the Capitol, Republicans prepared to fervently defend Trump while painting the impeachment probe as a thinly veiled show trial designed to take down a president who did nothing wrong.
“We’re just making sure we’re prepared and ready to go for the hearing tomorrow,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The series of open hearings that begin Wednesday will be a pivotal test of lawmakers’ ability to sway public opinion for or against Trump’s impeachment in a polarized political environment where both parties are seeking to use the inquiry to their advantage heading into the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns. It will also have the air of history — only presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been impeached by the House, and although neither was convicted by the Senate and removed from office, it was a defining episode of their presidencies.
It’s not like the Republicans are desperate or anything; at last count they’ve trotted out seventeen different defenses of Trump’s actions. But it all comes down to the word of a bunch of career diplomats and professionals in the intelligence community against a proven liar.
The major networks plan to cover this live, so if you’re not enamored of this sort of thing, read a book.