We don’t yet know everything Bill Taylor said during his 10 hours of testimony this week, but we know the career diplomat’s opening statement as part of the impeachment inquiry was devastating. After weeks in which Donald Trump and his allies tried to maintain the fiction that there was no “quid pro quo” between the White House and Ukraine, Taylor laid the truth bare.
As we discussed yesterday, Taylor’s testimony, supported by extensive and contemporaneous notes, exposed the American president’s direct involvement in an explicit scheme to leverage both military aid and a White House meeting as part of a plan to coerce Ukraine into participating in Trump’s domestic scheme.
Even a member of Senate Republican leadership conceded that the emerging picture “is not a good one” for Donald Trump.
Other GOP senators may have drawn a similar conclusion, but Politico reported yesterday that “a surprising number of Republicans said they were unfamiliar with even the gist of Taylor’s testimony.”
“I don’t know Bill Taylor from Adam. I know you better than I know Bill Taylor. I’ve been busy… doing important things, not participating in a sham process over in the House,” Cornyn said. “The drip drip drip of leaked testimony is producing daily news stories like you’re asking me about it. It’s part of their plan and scheme and I do not approve.”
Cornyn was not alone. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who has rapped the president for pressing the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, said he will “eventually” get around to reading about Taylor’s testimony but hasn’t yet.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho), who presumably should have some interest in the subject matter, said he’s neither seen nor read Taylor’s opening statement. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) added that he hasn’t yet read it, either.
It’s possible, of course, that each of these GOP senators are fibbing. Maybe they’re aware of what the career diplomat said, and they realize that if they concede to having familiarized themselves with Taylor’s remarks, they’ll be in the awkward position of having to either condemn or defend Trump’s misconduct.
But it’s also possible that many Senate Republicans are just incurious – again.
As regular readers know, this dynamic comes up more often than it should. Four years ago, as Republicans railed against the international nuclear agreement with Iran, some in the party conceded they hadn’t read the policy they were condemning. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted at the time, “This is legislating by reflex – a mass knee-jerk by the Republican majority in Congress. Those who howled ‘read the bill’ during the health-care debate couldn’t be bothered to read the nuclear agreement before sounding off.”
More recently, an unnerving number of Republicans conceded they hadn’t read the Mueller report – including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose job arguably entails reading documents like these.
Last month, many GOP lawmakers said they hadn’t read the complaint from the intelligence community’s whistleblower, either.
Is it unreasonable to wonder whether Capitol Hill would function better if more Republicans simply sat down and read more?