The Democrats concluded their impeachment hearings on Thursday and the verdict is already in from the major establishment organs. “Fiona Hill Nails the Case Against Trump,” blared the CNN headline. Then Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times, noted in a tweet: “One side lesson from this inquiry is that the Deep State contains some really impressive, principled people. Which is why Trump hates it so much.”
Well, no. Perhaps the main reason Donald Trump views the “deep state” with apprehension is because he has been fighting a defensive war against it since before his election. Trump’s victory signified a shift in public opinion, a buck against the post–Cold War policies of the United States’ managerial elites, including the unelected bureaucrats crafting internationalist policies that went beyond the time limits of individual administrations. This deep state’s response to Trump’s election was a three-year investigation into an election collusion conspiracy (partially fueled by disbelief that the American people could have voted the “wrong way”), and without skipping a beat has manifested itself into the current impeachment inquiry over Ukraine policy.
The praise of Krugman as well as nearly countless members of the foreign policy establishment was directed principally at the witnesses at yesterday’s hearing. One of the two was David Holmes, who currently serves as a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine. Holmes was able to spin a single vignette—a phone call he overheard in a restaurant between EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump—into a forty-five-minute opening statement.
The more significant appearance was that of Dr. Fiona Hill, who until August was responsible for coordinating all of policy regarding Europe for the National Security Council. Hill, a Russia expert and author who was a student of Richard Pipes at Harvard University, and previously worked at the Brookings Institution, joined the administration early on. Brought in as a “fact witness,” her performance was probably the most commanding of the entire week, delivering crisp answers with a calm, almost expressionless demeanor.
But is it the job of a former member of the National Security Council essentially going into battle for the Democrats? Is it an appropriate mission to “nail,” as the CNN headline put, the Democratic case, or is it to function as a fact witness—which is what was supposed to be her ostensible role at the hearing.