If it looked like House Republicans were throwing a lot of mud at the wall to see what might stick during the first day of public impeachment hearings, that’s because they had settled into a strategy many defense attorneys adopt when the prosecution has the goods on their client—confuse the issues and distract the audience from the evidence at hand.
I’ve tried many federal criminal cases, and Wednesday’s hearing looked a lot like trials in which the prosecution has the defendant on tape admitting to a crime. When defense attorneys can’t mount a defense on the merits, they raise a lot of peripheral issues in the hope of convincing at least one juror that there is reasonable doubt.
So every time you heard the Republican’s designated counsel ask about Hunter Biden’s language skills or one of the Republican members of the Intelligence Committee ask whether the Obama administration sold Javelin missiles to Ukraine, what you were actually hearing was a defense attorney doing his level best to avoid talking about what his client said on tape. It was chaotic and often unfocused, though not always. In fact, there were moments when members actually executed their playbook with some skill.
But they simply can’t overcome the abundant evidence Democrats possess to prove their central point—that President Donald Trump conditioned military aid to Ukraine on a public announcement that his political rival, Joe Biden, was under investigation. [Continue reading…]