The House Intelligence Committee began its public impeachment hearings with Republicans echoing the President's charges that it was vendetta against him by Dems with the aid of the media, or what Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking member, called "the corrupt media."
Nunes, in his opening statement in the first hearing, dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a damaging spectacle and "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign," merely a "low rent" Ukrainian sequel to the Russia collusion investigation that found no evidence that the President was a "Russian agent."
He called that a pitiful finale to the attempt by the Democrats and "corrupt media" to overturn the 2016 election, the "spectacular implosion of their Russia hoax," he said.
Nunes talked of one-sided leaks to new media and "secret depositions" in a cult-like atmosphere in the basement of the Capitol, followed by "highly staged" selective leaks of transcripts. He talked of "false stories" and "preposterous allegations" in a scorched earth Democratic strategy and a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign." He also said the Dems made-for-TV witnesses had essentially been given a closed-door audition via those closed hearings.
Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) made it clear he did not agree with assessment of the inquiry as a weak second act to the collusion investigation drama.
"The President has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents," Schiff said. "He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies. These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment."
The hearing witnesses are Bill Taylor, former top Ukraine diplomat, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at State.