Most of Monday’s impeachment hearings were decidedly bland and most fireworks concerned the tears of a clown. Near the end of the day, however, one freshman Democrat made substantial headway with the GOP’s lead counsel—striding toward a tidy refutation of an increasingly popular Republican Party-endorsed conspiracy theory.
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) extracted an admission from House GOP lawyer Steve Castor that American intelligence agencies have not signed off on the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not the facts in this matter are contested—I believe they are not contested,” Neguse began, speaking to both Castor and Democratic lead attorney Daniel Goldman. “So, I’d like to level set here and give you both an opportunity to address some of the facts that I believe are not in dispute.”
The Colorado Democrat continued:
I want to begin by addressing something I believe we all know for certain and that’s that Russia interfered in our 2016 election. Mr. Goldman, after two years of investigations, the special counsel determined that Russia interfered in our election in, quote, “sweeping and systemic fashion.” Is that right? Mr. Castor, is that right?
Both lawyers tersely agreed.
“And Mr. Goldman, am I correct that zero intel agencies have publicly stated that Ukraine attacked our elections in 2016?” Neguse asked.
“That’s correct. In fact, I don’t even think the minority is alleging the Ukrainian government systematically, in any meaningful way, interfered,” Goldman replied. “I think this is just based on a couple of news articles.”
”Mr. Castor, correct?” Neguse asked.
Castor audibly paused to collect his thoughts.
“Umm,” the Republican lawyer started, pausing again, “the president had a good faith belief there were some significant Ukrainian officials—“ before Neguse cut him off.
”I hear you,” the congressman said, “and you’ve said that previously.”
After a bit of cross-talk, Neguse rephrased the question.
“There are no intelligence agencies in the United States that have publicly said Ukraine attacked our elections, right?” he pressed. “You’re not testifying that that’s the case?”
”I’m not. Right. Correct,” Castor admitted.
Neguse went on to note that President Donald Trump’s former Homeland Security advisor Tom Bossert described the Ukrainian interference narrative as a “conspiracy theory” that had been “completely debunked.”
Castor conceded that point as well.
Not quite finished, Neguse then zeroed in on the fact that none of either Goldman’s or Castor’s witnesses testified in support of the Ukrainian interference story line.
Castor, after another pregnant pause, eventually agreed that was also true but quickly attempted to interject a caveat into his response.
“That’s true, but—“
Neguse, however, just as quickly cut Castor off again.
[image via screengrab/PBS]