John has already noted the fine job Rep. Elise Stefanik, a former “Power Line pick,” did today of questioning Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine. Stefanik also did well during Wednesday’s hearing. Indeed, John McCormack at NRO says she was “clearly the strongest Republican questioner of the day.”
Stefanik has distinguished herself by focusing on four indisputable facts: (1) Ukraine didn’t agree to investigate the Bidens, (2) Ukraine got military aid anyway, (3) Burisma, the company that paid Hunter Biden to sit on its board, is highly corrupt, and (4) the State Department viewed Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma as problematic.
As McCormack observes, the first two facts are the basis for a “no harm, no foul” defense of President Trump. Or at least a “no harm, no impeachable foul” defense.
The last two facts make it possible to argue that the administration had a legitimate reason to want Ukraine to investigate Burisma, quite apart from any desire to harm Joe Biden’s candidacy. To be sure, it takes a considerable amount of naivety to think that Trump would have cared at all about Burisma but for the fact that Hunter Biden is the son of a political rival. And when Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate, he mentioned only the Bidens, not Burisma.
Still, the question of whether Trump would have wanted Burisma investigated absent a Joe Biden connection is counterfactual. Thus, whatever we strongly suspect, it’s impossible to prove that legitimately investigating corruption wasn’t at least part of Trump’s motivation when he held up military aid.
In any event, I believe Stefanik is doing the best job of any Republican committee member. And she’s doing so well because, as McCormack says, she’s avoiding the extremely weak defenses (and non-defenses) being pressed by some of her GOP colleagues.