When I don’t get the feeling Adam Schiff is secretly working for the Russians, I get the feeling he’s secretly working for Donald Trump. The latter feeling predominated during two weeks of impeachment hearings. The case, which doesn’t strike me as strong, should be that Mr. Trump withheld, or threatened to withhold, congressionally mandated military aid for Ukraine for an illegal purpose. But the witnesses who were supposed to be harmful to Mr. Trump weren’t. They failed to establish, or even argue, that Mr. Trump’s concern with the Biden role in Ukraine, or Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election, was illegitimate.
State Department witness George Kent testified that he himself upbraided Ukrainian officials for ending an investigation of Burisma, Hunter Biden’s employer, which U.S. taxpayer dollars had helped support. He called for—guess what?—an investigation: “I would love to see [Ukraine’s government] find out who the corrupt prosecutor was, and who took the bribe, and how much he was paid.”
William Taylor, another presumably hostile State Department witness, was sufficiently open to the agenda of his outsider president to propose that an official other than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky make the wished-for announcement, “in coordination with Attorney General Barr’s probe into the investigation of interference in the 2016 elections.”
Like a dinner-theater detective, Mr. Schiff shouts “Aha!” at every confirmation of what has been obvious since the White House released its own transcript of the Trump call with Mr. Zelensky. The Trump administration was keen on arming Ukraine and supporting its new government to exact a cost from Vladimir Putin. That is, everybody in the Trump administration except the president himself, who was cool or indifferent to this agenda but intruded only occasionally to push the Biden talking point.
His staff, apparently appreciating who actually received votes from the electorate, busied itself at times trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s agenda with their own. And yet, in the manner of factotums everywhere, the agenda they ended up delivering was their own—Ukraine got its arms and presidential meeting—while Mr. Trump’s fell through the cracks.
Mr. Trump is chaotic, unschooled and politically motivated, but only the first two qualities differentiate him from other presidents. He cares only about “the big things,” Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified. Isn’t that the job description? If President Obama’s staff had been as successful as Mr. Trump’s, U.S. troops would never have left Iraq. Yet Mr. Obama was entitled to make the trade-off he did, unfortunate as it was. Securing re-election is the first thing any president owes his supporters. It’s what makes our system go ’round.
The “deep state” was noticeably less concerned with reining in Obama, whose instincts were much worse than Trump’s, and whose actions were much more destructive. But Obama was a member of the club in ways Trump never will be.