Democrats’ optimism over the impeachment inquiry public hearings got a bit of a reality check late Thursday following testimony of several high profile witnesses who offered further damning allegations of the president’s bribery and extortion scheme the compromised national security for his own political gain.
And while it still seemed like Donald Trump was all but guaranteed to be impeached, one Congressman, in particular, seemed to all but confirm that the president would not be removed from office. The comments from Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the only Black Republican member of the House of Representatives, were being blamed for playing both sides of the political fence that condemned as well as absolved Trump for his admitted quid pro quo.
Hurd spoke after hours of revealing testimony from Dr. Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council adviser on Russia, and David Holmes, a state department aide in Ukraine, which Trump threatened to withhold financial aid from unless it opened investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family’s ties to the eastern European country. The working logic is that Trump wanted the investigation in order to smear Biden’s campaign as a means to gain political leverage ahead of and into the 2020 general election.
Hill testified that she told Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that the Ukraine quid pro quo scheme was “going to blow up. And here we are.” Holmes followed that up by saying under oath: “It was obvious what the president was pressing for.”
After the other members of the House Intelligence Committee took bipartisan fueled turns trying to credit and discredit the witnesses, Hurd was given the floor.
Hurd has a history of breaking from Republicans on contentious issues, including immigration. In fact, back in 2017, it was rumored he might be thinking of leaving the Republican Party. That’s why it was widely anticipated that the Texan, who has been called a moderate Republican, would side with his Democratic counterparts and vote in favor of the impeachment. That seemed to be true at the outset of his testimony Thursday when he said that he believed Trump “undermined our national security and undercut Ukraine.” Hurd also said that he disagreed “with this sort of bungling foreign policy.”
Hurd’s looming retirement and his decision against running for election had him seen as one of the few Republicans who might actually vote with his or her conscious instead of along party loyalties. That vision proved to be short-sighted with Hurd’s next words:
“An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous, and it is not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said. “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion. I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all of the foreign policy choices we have been hearing about over these last few weeks.”
And with that, it would appear that not a single House Republican would vote in favor of the impeachment. And while that would necessarily prevent impeachment from happening, it seemed to lend further credence to the expectation that an impeachment trial in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, would also mean a vote along party lines that would equal an acquittal.
Rumor has it that Hurd is eyeing a run for president in 2024. Voting in favor of impeaching a Republican president would surely hurt his presumed candidacy.
The entire episode on the last day of the impeachment inquiry public hearings propelled Hurd’s name to be a top trending topic on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. Social media users promptly dragged Hurd as a coward whose latest [in]actions will be remembered as being on the wrong side of history.
Thursday ended the second week of testimony that also included an instance of apparent witness intimidation by the president. Trump tweeted threats at Marie Yovanovitch, the former Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine who the president recalled from her post because he thought she was impeding his admitted attempts to bribe Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Yovanovitch’s testimony came two days after Day 1 of the public hearings that saw other career State Department diplomats testifying that the president took deliberate steps to undermine the diplomatic and political processes in Ukraine in order to effect political gain for himself.
One witness, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr., revealed that one of his aides had recently reported overhearing a phone call with the president during which Trump indicated he was more concerned with investigating the Bidens than he was with helping the Eastern European country. That allegation, which was previously unheard, was expected to help sway Republicans to vote with Democrats, not against them.
That possibility was firmly in doubt following Hurd’s comments on Thursday.