Schiff bamboozles Republicans in Yovanovitch hearing

As chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under the rules Herr Gruppenführer Schiff devised for his impeachment inquiry, he gets to begin every hearing with an opening statement, followed by opening statements from the witness — in Friday's iteration, Yovanovitch — and Republican ranking committee member Devin Nunes.

After the opening statements, Schiff gets 45 minutes, any portion of which he can delegate, at his discretion, to Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman.  Nunes then gets his 45 minutes under the same rules.  All this is followed by five-minute intervals of questioning alternating between members of each party.

Schiff's rules disallow the presence of White House counsel, and while Republicans can call witnesses, they must be approved by a committee vote, so essentially, Schiff decides, and that means no Republican witnesses. 

Against all odds, and the predictions of...well, everybody, Republicans killed them at the Taylor/Kent hearing.  The Republican members of HPSCI (If you Google "Republican Members of HPSCI," the first thing that "nonpartisan" Google gives you is the list of the Democratic Party members.), led by the 1970s band Jordan, Ratcliffe, and Stefanik, bludgeoned the two bureaucrats mercilessly.  It was a great show.

The Republicans had a plan to do the same to Yovanovitch, and it was a good plan.  It would have worked, too.  After all, it succeeded against Blasey Ford with her tiny voice and gigantic glasses.  Or at least it didn't fail, and it allowed Lindsey Graham time to find his testicular fortitude and pucker up.

The plan was to have Nunes give most of his 45 minutes to Representative Elise Stefanik, the "gentlewoman" from New York, who was super-prepared to take Yovanovitch apart.

But Schiff was too smart for them, and of course, the Republicans had no Plan B.

Schiff knew the rules — of course he did; he wrote them — and he made the Republicans stick to them.  When Nunes tried to hand off to Stefanik, Schiff wouldn't allow it.  Slamming down a gavel as big as his eyes, he repeatedly ordered that "the gentlewoman will suspend."  Schiff would only permit, as his rules dictate, Republican counsel Steve Castor to question Yovanovitch.

Sure, Nunes and Stefanik protested vehemently — well, Stefanik did, indignantly asking, "Will the chairman continue to prohibit witnesses from answering Republican questions, as you've done in closed hearings and as you did this week when you interrupted our questions?"

Nunes, however, seemed to realize his tactical error.  With incredulity and eyes almost as wide as the chairman's, he asked, "You're gagging the young lady from New York?"

The rules are the rules, and if the Republicans didn't know them, they are as dumb as everyone says they are.  And the fact that they clearly didn't anticipate Schiff's parry merely reinforces that conception.

Defeated, Nunes handed the ball to Castor, who, as a lifelong attorney, cross-examined Yovanovitch in a methodical and very lawyer-like manner.  Although he seemed unprepared for the extra time, he was somewhat effective, scoring multiple points, but he lost the audience, who yearned for the slap-downs the Republicans gave to Taylor and Kent.

Shut out by Schiff, Stefanik was relegated to one or two five-minute interrogations (I can't remember — too busy vomiting), and whatever time the other members would throw her way from their five-minute allotted intervals.  Few preening Republicans wanted to give up any of their time on national TV, even if it would have been better for the team.

Schiff made another brilliant move as well.  The hearing started at 9 A.M., and after Castor finished his 45 minutes, but before Jordan and Stefanik, et al. got their shot, Schiff called for a recess so the full House could "vote" on legislation, something Democrats have shown embarrassingly little interest in doing since they caught impeachment fever in November of 2016.

Great move, because this delayed any Republican questioning of Yovanovitch until almost 12:30 P.M., when the audience was much smaller, because, presumably, those viewers who didn't abandon ship after the 45 minutes of mind-numbingly grueling questioning by Castor, would have decided lunch and their sanity were more important.

In addition to not anticipating Schiff's move and their lack of a Plan B, as well as the Republican members' refusal to cede any of their "close-up" time to their most effective questioners, Jordan, Stefanik, and Ratcliffe, each of the individual members (except for Jordan) spent at least the first 45 seconds of their allotted 5 minutes kissing up to the witness.

Let that sink in: they were so terrified of the media portraying them as "unfair to a woman" that they went out of their way to profusely compliment and thank a willing participant in an attempted coup of their party's president.  One, who shall remain nameless, even treated his five as if it were a commercial for his re-election and, after wasting a minute on obsequious praise and gratitude, spent two full minutes telling the world how great he himself was.

Did they forget why they were there?  We get it: the rules are unfair.  Yet to have no plan to work within them was idiotic, and they deserved, to borrow a word from Barack Obama, that most dangerous of morons, the "shellacking" they got.

The Republicans were very effective in their post-hearing statements and when answering questions from the media.  I'm sure all five viewers were impressed.  If only they had a plan, they could have done the same during the hearing.  If they are not prepared for Schiff's machinations in the coming hearings, we are doomed. 

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

As chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under the rules Herr Gruppenführer Schiff devised for his impeachment inquiry, he gets to begin every hearing with an opening statement, followed by opening statements from the witness — in Friday's iteration, Yovanovitch — and Republican ranking committee member Devin Nunes.

After the opening statements, Schiff gets 45 minutes, any portion of which he can delegate, at his discretion, to Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman.  Nunes then gets his 45 minutes under the same rules.  All this is followed by five-minute intervals of questioning alternating between members of each party.

Schiff's rules disallow the presence of White House counsel, and while Republicans can call witnesses, they must be approved by a committee vote, so essentially, Schiff decides, and that means no Republican witnesses. 

Against all odds, and the predictions of...well, everybody, Republicans killed them at the Taylor/Kent hearing.  The Republican members of HPSCI (If you Google "Republican Members of HPSCI," the first thing that "nonpartisan" Google gives you is the list of the Democratic Party members.), led by the 1970s band Jordan, Ratcliffe, and Stefanik, bludgeoned the two bureaucrats mercilessly.  It was a great show.

The Republicans had a plan to do the same to Yovanovitch, and it was a good plan.  It would have worked, too.  After all, it succeeded against Blasey Ford with her tiny voice and gigantic glasses.  Or at least it didn't fail, and it allowed Lindsey Graham time to find his testicular fortitude and pucker up.

The plan was to have Nunes give most of his 45 minutes to Representative Elise Stefanik, the "gentlewoman" from New York, who was super-prepared to take Yovanovitch apart.

But Schiff was too smart for them, and of course, the Republicans had no Plan B.

Schiff knew the rules — of course he did; he wrote them — and he made the Republicans stick to them.  When Nunes tried to hand off to Stefanik, Schiff wouldn't allow it.  Slamming down a gavel as big as his eyes, he repeatedly ordered that "the gentlewoman will suspend."  Schiff would only permit, as his rules dictate, Republican counsel Steve Castor to question Yovanovitch.

Sure, Nunes and Stefanik protested vehemently — well, Stefanik did, indignantly asking, "Will the chairman continue to prohibit witnesses from answering Republican questions, as you've done in closed hearings and as you did this week when you interrupted our questions?"

Nunes, however, seemed to realize his tactical error.  With incredulity and eyes almost as wide as the chairman's, he asked, "You're gagging the young lady from New York?"

The rules are the rules, and if the Republicans didn't know them, they are as dumb as everyone says they are.  And the fact that they clearly didn't anticipate Schiff's parry merely reinforces that conception.

Defeated, Nunes handed the ball to Castor, who, as a lifelong attorney, cross-examined Yovanovitch in a methodical and very lawyer-like manner.  Although he seemed unprepared for the extra time, he was somewhat effective, scoring multiple points, but he lost the audience, who yearned for the slap-downs the Republicans gave to Taylor and Kent.

Shut out by Schiff, Stefanik was relegated to one or two five-minute interrogations (I can't remember — too busy vomiting), and whatever time the other members would throw her way from their five-minute allotted intervals.  Few preening Republicans wanted to give up any of their time on national TV, even if it would have been better for the team.

Schiff made another brilliant move as well.  The hearing started at 9 A.M., and after Castor finished his 45 minutes, but before Jordan and Stefanik, et al. got their shot, Schiff called for a recess so the full House could "vote" on legislation, something Democrats have shown embarrassingly little interest in doing since they caught impeachment fever in November of 2016.

Great move, because this delayed any Republican questioning of Yovanovitch until almost 12:30 P.M., when the audience was much smaller, because, presumably, those viewers who didn't abandon ship after the 45 minutes of mind-numbingly grueling questioning by Castor, would have decided lunch and their sanity were more important.

In addition to not anticipating Schiff's move and their lack of a Plan B, as well as the Republican members' refusal to cede any of their "close-up" time to their most effective questioners, Jordan, Stefanik, and Ratcliffe, each of the individual members (except for Jordan) spent at least the first 45 seconds of their allotted 5 minutes kissing up to the witness.

Let that sink in: they were so terrified of the media portraying them as "unfair to a woman" that they went out of their way to profusely compliment and thank a willing participant in an attempted coup of their party's president.  One, who shall remain nameless, even treated his five as if it were a commercial for his re-election and, after wasting a minute on obsequious praise and gratitude, spent two full minutes telling the world how great he himself was.

Did they forget why they were there?  We get it: the rules are unfair.  Yet to have no plan to work within them was idiotic, and they deserved, to borrow a word from Barack Obama, that most dangerous of morons, the "shellacking" they got.

The Republicans were very effective in their post-hearing statements and when answering questions from the media.  I'm sure all five viewers were impressed.  If only they had a plan, they could have done the same during the hearing.  If they are not prepared for Schiff's machinations in the coming hearings, we are doomed. 

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.