This past Friday, House impeachment investigators’ public hearing featuring former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch got interrupted about an hour in by an angry Twitter meltdown from President Donald Trump himself, who alleged that — somehow — Yovanovitch herself was responsible for deteriorating political conditions in places like Somalia. When pressed by reporters about the president’s apparent attempt at witness intimidation, Republican members of Congress resorted to outlandish rhetorical contortions to avoid direct answers. One House Intelligence Committee member — prominent Trump ally John Ratcliffe (Texas) — even seemed to fake a phone call just to get out of facing those seeking accountability for the president’s behavior.
During the hearing, intel panel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) stopped the proceedings to point out the president’s Twitter meltdown to those in attendance. Without any evidence whatsoever — or even an apparent attempt at concrete evidence — Trump had tweeted that “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
When asked about the Twitter attack, POLITICO reports that:
‘Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) quickly whipped out his cell phone and began talking into it, even though his home screen was visible and there was no call in progress.’
Ratcliffe has a history of antics like this getting revealed — after Trump announced he’d be nominating him to be the Director of National Intelligence, it emerged that he’d lied about his role in cases like the arrest of supposedly hundreds of undocumented immigrants and the prosecution of Hamas funders.
His kind of desperate antics will no doubt continue to mark Republican attempts at a defense against impeachment investigations, since the facts are simply squarely on the side of those seeking to hold the president accountable. There is clear evidence that the Trump team abruptly held up already approved military aid for Ukraine and pushed them to investigate the Bidens.
Via his Twitter feed, Trump keeps delivering more evidence of his abuse of power in real time, as Schiff put it during some of his remarks about the incident.
He told reporters:
‘What you saw today — witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States. Once again, going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously.’
Like happened following Trump’s repeated attempts to thwart Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Trump’s obstruction of the impeachment inquiry seems poised to get incorporated into final articles of impeachment drafted at the conclusion of the hearings that Democrats are now holding. No matter the president’s attempts at witness intimidation, they’re still collecting testimony, and this coming week alone, they have eight witnesses slated to testify publicly
In the meantime, no Republican would take some firm stance against the president’s attempt to intimidate those who are coming forward. All intel panel member Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) would say is that the tweets aren’t “something I would do. It’s just not my style.” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — who gained notoriety on Friday for breaking procedural rules and then complaining when she got called out — initially said “we’re not here to discuss tweets” before noting that she did find issue with “the tone of the tweet.”