Gird your loins my friends, because the day has finally arrived—the start of public impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. And while we’re unlikely to hear anything that we don’t already know deep in our hearts to be true, we will be subjected, over the next two weeks, to a parade of witnesses who are perfectly willing to tattle on Trump and how he and his goons attempted to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on his political rivals.
Who are all of the players, for starters? But more important, how did they look on what is likely one of the most important day of their lives?
Let’s start with Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He’s admittedly looking a little worse for wear, though who can blame him? According to a recent New York Times Magazine profile, Schiff, who’s leading the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump, has only been getting two or three hours of sleep every night. Someone start a GoFundMe to get him some eye drops and a Vitamin C serum!
The first witness was George Kent, who in his opening statement taught me that Kiev is actually pronounced KEEV and not, as I thought, KEY-ev. I guess I did learn something new (to me)! Kent is the senior State Department official overseeing the U.S. relationship with Ukraine, so a Very Important Dude. More on Kent and what he said during his earlier closed-door testimony, from the New York Times:
A Harvard graduate and career diplomat who speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Thai, Mr. Kent joined the State Department in 1992 and now holds the title of deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. He has a deep knowledge of corruption in Ukraine from his time as an anticorruption coordinator in the State Department’s European Bureau in 2014 and 2015, and later as deputy chief of mission in the United States Embassy in Kiev from 2015 until 2018.
In his private testimony, he offered new detail that appeared to underscore the idea that Mr. Trump’s actions were politically motivated, saying he was told that the president wanted to hear President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine say the name “Clinton” in connection with potential wrongdoing.
Using the acronym for president of the United States, he told investigators, “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say, investigations, Biden and Clinton.”
But for our purposes, let’s focus on his incredible bow-tie/pocket square combo, which my colleague Kelly Faircloth accurately described as the “most George Plimpton-ass outfit” ever. I imagine Kent, immediately after departing the House chambers, will jauntily step his way to a dark, leather-clad bar and order a nice mint julep. He deserves it!
Next we had Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and another key player. Here’s how the Washington Post described him:
Taylor is also a career diplomat and military veteran who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, including as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. He was asked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take over after Trump had Marie Yovanovitch removed from the ambassadorship. He said it was a tough decision to return to Kyiv — the treatment of Yovanovitch and Rudy Giuliani’s involvement were among the factors that gave him pause — but ultimately he accepted Pompeo’s request.
He testified that he learned via conversations with White House aides, national security officials and Trump’s point people in Ukraine that there was a concerted effort to force Ukraine into a quid pro quo: If it wanted military aid and an Oval Office meeting, Ukraine’s president needed to publicly agree to investigate Democrats. What’s critical about Taylor’s testimony is that he didn’t attribute this to one conversation with one person. Over the course of several months, he talked to high-level officials at the National Security Council, officials in Ukraine’s presidential office and two of the “three amigos” designated by Trump to handle Ukraine policy outside the normal diplomatic channels. “I was in the regular channel” of diplomacy, Taylor testified, “but I was also in the irregular one.”
What the Post doesn’t mention is Taylor’s very good voice, which is deep and stentorian, with a faint lisp that adds a nice, soft whistle to his sentences. His wireless spectacles make me trust him, and despite his tie being slightly too long, I appreciate that he chose something—teal, slightly metallic—that’s a little bit out of the box. Shows he’s someone who knows how to play the game, but is willing to be his own man!
Here are some terrible people—Republican Representatives Devin Nunes on the left and Jim Jordan on the right, with Republican House attorney Steve Castor in the middle—looking terrible. The three seem to all have the same barber, who should be fired, ASAP.
But the winner is this unnamed drag queen who, as Getty described it, stood “in the hallway of the Longworth building as people await the arrival of the first two witnesses to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.” Who is she? Will she testify next week? We can only hope!