On Wednesday, the curtain rises on the House's impeachment show, featuring State Department career diplomats William Taylor Jr. and George Kent as the first witnesses. Mainstream media outlets claim Taylor and Kent have "damning evidence" that President Donald Trump delayed military aid to Ukraine in a quid pro quo to pressure the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Don't believe it. Kent and Taylor have no evidence against Trump -- only a false rumor spread during Sept. 7's farcical game of telephone. Taylor heard the claim fourthhand and then called Kent, who got it fifthhand.
Making these diplomats lead witnesses in the impeachment show is a ruse. They never spoke with Trump about the aid and admit they had no direct knowledge of why it was delayed. They weren't even on the controversial July 25 phone call that has become the pretext for impeachment.
On that call, Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and Joe Biden's son's Ukrainian dealings. Trump didn't say military aid was contingent upon it. But Democrats insist a quid pro quo was implicit -- and an impeachable offense.
Now it's showtime, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has to parade witnesses in front of the cameras to make it look like the Democrats have the goods on the president.
What Taylor and Kent heard would never be considered in a court of law. The fact that Schiff's leading with them indicates he has no real evidence. Imagine a prosecutor in a murder trial leading with two witnesses who didn't know anything about the crime but heard a rumor the accused was guilty.
The rumor against Trump gained momentum Sept. 1, when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland speculated in conversation with a Ukrainian official that U.S. aid depended on an investigation. Six days later, Sondland recounted that conversation to Tim Morrison of the National Security Council, who told Taylor, who then passed it on to Kent. (Transcript of Taylor testimony, p. 36)
Here's Kent's laughable recap of that game of telephone: "Taylor indicated that he had talked to Tim Morrison ... and Tim had indicated he had talked to Gordon, and Gordon told ...Tim, and Tim told Bill Taylor that he, Gordon, had talked to the President. ... And POTUS wanted nothing less than President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy to go (on) microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton." (Transcript of Kent testimony, p. 267-8)
Sondland's account got muddled as it was passed from Morrison to Taylor to Kent.
Worse, Sondland had no actual knowledge that aid was linked to the Ukrainians' announcing an investigation. He merely "presumed" it, he told congressional investigators in a revised statement. And the aid was released without an investigation.
The day after the game of telephone, Sondland talked to Taylor, assuring him that Trump repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo. (Taylor transcript, p. 39-40) Most media accounts omit that fact. Count on Schiff to gloss over it, too, on Wednesday.
And expect Taylor and Kent to whine endlessly, as they did to investigators, about Trump running foreign policy out of the White House instead of deferring to experts like them. No wonder they're determined to take Trump down.
But if Schiff wanted real evidence, he'd call Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. When Johnson wanted to find out why the aid was held up, he called Trump directly. Trump explained that he was trying to get European nations to pay their share to arm Ukraine against Russia: "I asked Angela (Merkel), you know, why don't you fund these things? And ... Angela tells me, because you guys will. So, Ron, we're schmucks."
Johnson bluntly asked Trump if that was a quid pro quo for aid, and Trump vehemently replied, "No, I would never do that."
At the hearings, don't expect to hear about the abundant evidence exonerating Trump. Schiff's rigged the hearings to prop up rumors and exclude the truth.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.