In the 147 weeks that Donald Trump has been in office, last week was the worst.
But, this week will be even worse … much worse.
Last week a parade of officials and former officials testified, under oath, in the impeachment hearings, about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now calling a bribe offered to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to undertake an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for the release of military aid. Three witnesses, Ambassador Bill Taylor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, struck a common chord: If you opposed corruption and supported the rule of law in Ukraine you ran into a buzz saw of opposition from Trump.
“Perhaps it was not surprising that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of the desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me,” Yovanovitch testified. “What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of the U.S. ambassador.”
“How could our system fail like this?” she asked. “How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?”
When Kent was asked why Trump wanted Yovanovitch removed as ambassador of Ukraine, he replied, “[Y]ou can't promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing-off corrupt people.”
But, it was Taylor’s testimony last Wednesday that may prove most damaging to Trump. Taylor revealed that a member of his staff, David Holmes, overheard a telephone conversation between Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland about Ukraine pursuing investigations. According to reports of Holmes’ closed-door testimony, Holmes confirmed that Sondland told the president that Zelensky would pursue investigations.
Others have testified that Sondland made it clear there was a link to military aid and an investigation into the Bidens. It was reported that Holmes also said Sondland made clear that he was acting upon the instructions of Trump. Holmes’ testimony contradicts Sondland’s previous congressional testimony about this matter.
On Friday, more bad news. Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Trump, was found guilty on all seven charges he faced, including witness tampering, in connection with Wikileaks’ interference in the 2016 election that many believe benefited Trump. Trump tweeted about the verdict and then also attacked Yovanovitch by tweet – while she was still testifying before the Intelligence Committee. Many are calling the attack witness tampering, the very crime Stone was convicted of, adding an additional article of impeachment.
As more witnesses testify amid Trump’s diminished political clout, Republican senators who will ultimately decide his fate – and their own – should start to see that standing with him comes at a price.
Perhaps hoping for relief from his domestic woes, that afternoon Trump hosted Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, whose genocide of Kurds in Syria continues. The fact Trump met with Erdogan in the White House as he violates the human rights of Kurds can only be seen as a desperate attempt to divert coverage of the impeachment hearings.
Not only did the meeting fail to dominate the news cycle, Erdogan also used it to mock Trump. First, Erdogan unceremoniously returned the “don’t be a fool” letter Trump had sent in an effort to deny, after the fact, that he provided a green light for Turkey’s moves against the Kurds. Then he showed an anti-Kurd propaganda video to senators attending the White House meeting. Still, Trump proclaimed himself to be a “big fan” of Erdogan.
Despite that attempt at distracting the nation, testimony in the impeachment inquiry continued on Friday and Saturday.
And still the week got worse.
Saturday night Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, won re-election, despite three recent visits to the state by Trump in support of the Republican candidate. Edwards was the second Democrat to win a gubernatorial race in a red Southern state in less than two weeks.
As more witnesses testify amid Trump’s diminished political clout, Republican senators who will ultimately decide his fate – and their own – should start to see that standing with him comes at a price. After blindly supporting Trump for almost three years, the cost to the country and their political careers may be starting to outweigh any benefits. It will grow easier to oppose the president as polls show increased support for impeachment and if his candidates keep getting trounced at the polls.
All that, and next week will be even worse. Eight more witnesses are scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry, including Ambassador Sondland on Wednesday morning. This could be pivotal.
Sondland has already amended his previous congressional testimony, saying other witnesses had “refreshed my recollection.” As one of the few witnesses in the inquiry with access to the president, Sondland’s revised testimony could be damning.
When Sondland was deposed before Congress four weeks ago a reporter asked if he needed to salvage his reputation. Sondland cheekily replied, “I don’t have a reputation to salvage.” Well, the stakes are now much higher. Sondland’s revised testimony could save himself but sink Trump. .
And that would make for the worst week of all for Trump … at least until the next one.