Conservative Disinformation: An Example from the Impeachment Inquiry
As House Democrats have been trying to get to the bottom of what happened when President Trump denied $391 million in military aid to our ally, Ukraine, disinformation has flowed nonstop. Much of this subterfuge has been created by House and Senate Republicans. Some political commentators have joined in the fray as well.
One such commentator is Byron York who published a commentary titled “End Impeachment Secrecy.” York, the chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, apparently did not consult any creditable sources or even history before he wrote his commentary. Op-eds are opinion pieces, yes; however, they should be based on fact not fiction.
York claims that depositions related to the Impeachment Inquiry were in “secret,” “behind closed doors,” “super-secret,” and that Democrats are trying to “remove the president based on information that is not available to the public.”
This was more than an exaggeration. The reasons for the inquiry were well documented. Anyone following the news was aware that President Trump allegedly withheld $391 million in military aid that Congress had approved months before to our ally, Ukraine. We have been providing aid to Ukraine since 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea to annex that part of their country. This aid is given in our own national defense against a hostile foreign power to the U.S. – Russia.
As several witnesses recently testified under oath in public, Trump withheld this military assistance for his own political gain – to manufacture political “dirt” on his rival, former Vice-President Joe Biden and to try to blame Ukraine for Russia’s disinformation campaign to help Trump prevail in the 2016 elections. Trump’s actions also served the interests of his favorite authoritarian, Russian President Vladimir Putin. The failure to meet with Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the newly elected and reform-minded leader, and to deliver much needed military assistance, undermined US backing for this struggling country at a critical time. (See, e.g., Foreign Policy Magazine).
York leads his readers to believe that Republicans were not allowed in the inquiry depositions. This is not true. There are six committees involved in this impeachment inquiry process: Oversight and Reform, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Ways and Means, and Financial Services. Both Republicans and Democrats who are serving on these committees were expected to and did attend. No information was kept from House Republicans. Indeed, Republicans questioned the witnesses.
On October 23rd, approximately two dozen House Republicans delayed the testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper by over five hours which was being held in a secure area called the SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility). They said they were making a point about the lack of transparency in the inquiry process. Ironically, twelve of those House members were permitted (and expected) to attend the depositions. They were not being denied information at all. (National Public Radio)
On June 6, 2015 former House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) stated during the Benghazi investigations into Hillary Clinton “Non-committee members are not allowed in the room during the deposition. Those are the rules and we have to follow them, no exceptions made.” Do the rules change depending on the party of the person being investigated? Not according to Trey Gowdy who on October 27th appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” to discuss the impeachment probe. Host Margaret Brennan asked Gowdy if he still believed in the process being used. His answer? “100 percent,” Gowdy replied. “You can’t pick and choose which aspects of due process you’re going to use. It’s not just the privacy. The reason we respect executive-branch investigations isn’t because they’re behind closed doors, it’s because there are no leaks.”
Of course, as House Democrats had promised, the deposition transcripts were made public and key witnesses testified in public under oath and subject to questioning by Republican Counsel and Members. Republicans wanted open hearings and they got them. As a result, the public got to see the professionalism and integrity of American patriots like former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor and senior NSC official Fiona Hill. And the public also got to hear about the corrupt and venal acts and constantly shifting cover ups by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Devin Nunes, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, last but not least, President Donald Trump. Be careful what you wish for, and with our continued vigilance, the truth will out.