One of President Trump's main talking points and expected defenses against impeachment is based on a lie that serves Vladimir Putin's interest, not America's, the nation's third-ranking diplomat testified Tuesday.
The White House and supporters on Capitol Hill have tried to undermine the House's impeachment probe by arguing that Trump had a legitimate interest in pushing Ukraine to investigate widely discredited claims that Ukraine itself was actually behind meddling in the 2016 election, not Russia, and that Democrats had stashed a mysterious server there.
But Under Secretary of State David Hale, a Trump nominee, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that none of the plot points is true.
Walked through the claims made by the administration and its defenders by the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Hale disagreed with all of them.
He affirmed it was Russia that interfered in the 2016 contest, that intelligence community conclusions it was the Kremlin that interfered are not a hoax, and that he knew of no evidence that Ukraine meddled.
Hale also agreed with one of the star witnesses in the impeachment probe, Trump's former National Security Council adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill, who testified the phony Ukraine tale was a narrative hatched by Russian security services.
"Is our national security made stronger or weaker when members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies?" Menendez asked, to emphasize the nature of the arguments.
"It does not serve our interests," Hale answered.
Democrats also got Hale to cast doubt on any legitimacy Trump and allies might assert regarding Trump's attempts to dig into "corruption" in Ukraine, noting that the efforts were dropped as soon as they were exposed.
"Is it our current policy to request investigations into Crowdstrike?" Sen. Chris Murphy asked, referring to the company that conspiracy theorists alleged hid a compromised Democratic Party server in Ukraine.
"No," Hale said.
Similarly, Hale answered "not that I'm aware of," when Murphy asked whether it was current U.S. policy to request investigations into the Biden family or the company that Hunter Biden worked for, and whether Rudy Giuliani was still holding diplomatic conversations with Ukraine.
"It's important to acknowledge those facts because part of the defense of the president's actions will be that those requests were in fact appropriate," Murphy said. "Since the uncovering of those demands have been made, they are no longer part of official U.S. policy. [It] queries whether or not, if those actions were appropriate, they would have been dropped after these investigations began."
The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday on drawing up potential articles of impeachment.