According to Bulwark columnist Philip Rotner, GOP lawmakers for the moment are parroting Donald Trump's insistence that he is innocent of any wrongdoing with regard to withholding aid to Ukraine's president unless he was given political dirt on his political opponent, but that could quickly come to an end if certain key witnesses are allowed to testify.
As the conservative columnist noted, he previously said that the president would base his defense on the simple phrase "I didn't do it," and -- now that the impeachment hearings have started -- it appears the GOP is running with the president's spin.
"Trump’s primary congressional attack dog, Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, was the most skilled proponent of the attempt to separate Trump from the now undeniable fact that individuals working on Trump’s behalf attempted to extort a public statement by Ukraine’s president that the Bidens were under investigation for corruption," he wrote. "But one piece of new evidence tying Trump directly to the scheme came out during Wednesday’s testimony from State Department official George Kent and Ukraine diplomat William Taylor. Taylor testified that a member of his staff overheard a telephone conversation between E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky."
Saying that ambassador's revelation is a lead that needs to be followed, Rotner said the president is holding back the real bombshells in the form of White House officials who are being barred from testifying.
"Think about it," he asked. "Trump’s defenders are arguing that all the evidence against Trump is second-hand at the same time that Trump is ordering the witnesses who have first-hand information—Mick Mulvaney, Gordon Sondland, Rudy Giuliani, possibly Rick Perry, John Bolton, and others—not to testify. That’s a nifty Catch-22."
"If the first-hand witnesses are ultimately required to testify, they will face their own Catch-22. They can’t implicate Trump without implicating themselves. So don’t expect them to come to the rescue," he continued. "And if any of them do link Trump directly to the scheme, it will be his word against theirs."
That point, the columnist suggests, could be the tipping point for public sentiment -- and the end of GOP impeachment intransigence.
"In the end, of course, how congressional Republicans react to this will depend mostly on the flow of public opinion. If the “impeach/remove” needle ticks up even a few more points, especially in red and swing states, they may stop pretending that they believe everything Trump says," he concluded.
You can read the whole piece here.