GOP Lawyer Steve Castor's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
House Republican impeachment attorney Steve Castor was given a heaping pile of chicken shit yesterday and failed to turn it into a delicious bowl of chicken salad. Castor's been kicking around the House since 2005, the beloved attack schnauzer of Jason Chaffetz, Trey Gowdy, and Darrell Issa, who described him as "just too good a lawyer not to have." Which might have been overselling it just a wee smidge, particularly since the guy has the charisma of a tube sock.
Donald Trump, a creature conjured entirely out of the fever swamp of reality television, derided the Democrat's counsel Daniel Goldman as a "TV lawyer." And yet Castor's years as a Republican congressional hack proved no match for Goldman's cross examination skills honed as an SDNY mob prosecutor. Sad! Not to put too fine a point on it, Castor got his ass kicked in yesterday's hearing with Bill Taylor, the interim ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the State Department's deputy secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. Which is why the GOP tried to dismiss the entire proceeding as ZZZZZ, OMG SO BORING instead of gleefully playing clips of him PWNING THE LIBS. Because those clips do not exist.
It's not entirely Castor's fault that he faceplanted on national television. Donald Trump already confessed in writing to shaking down Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and every single witness has confirmed that he tried to trade arms for investigations. All Castor's got is Zelenskiy holding a bag of frozen peas over his swollen eye and insisting nervously that he really just walked into a door, plus some batshit conspiracy theories about Ukraine being the real hacker in 2016. And yet, he really did manage to look like an utter jackass, even considering the weakness of his position.
Here's Castor making the case that there exist on this earth things more inappropriate and outlandish than Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU, leading a secret backchannel trying to get a foreign ally to announce investigations into the president's political opponents.
CASTOR: I want to turn to the discussion of the irregular channel you described. And in fairness, this irregular channel of diplomacy, it's not as outlandish as it could be. Is that correct?
KENT: It's not at outlandish as it could be. I agree with that.
Well, it's no unsecured cellphone conversation between the EU ambassador and POTUS loud enough to be heard by half the patrons in that restaurant in Ukraine, a country lousy with Russian spies. We'll give him that.
CASTOR: And the second member of the irregular channel is Ambassador Sondland, who is Senate-confirmed ambassador to the EU, so his involvement here, while not necessarily part of his official duties as the ambassador to the EU, it certainly is not outlandish for him to be interested and engaged pursuant to the President or Secretary Pompeo's direction, correct?
TAYLOR: It's a little unusual for the US ambassador to the EU to play a role in Ukraine policy.
CASTOR: Okay. And you know, it might be irregular, but it's certainly not outlandish.
TAYLOR: [Extreme WELL-YOU-TRIED face.]
Here's Castor trying to GOTCHA Taylor and then Kent for their failure to be up on the latest wingnut conspiracy fart noises.
CASTOR: In the information published by Serhiy Leshchenko, former Ukrainian investigative journalist and then he was a member of the parliament, about the Manafort black ledgers in August of 2016, the very day that was published, Mr. Manafort resigned from the campaign, correct?
TAYLOR: I don't know, Mr. Castor.
CASTOR: Certainly that gives rise to some concern that there are elements of the Ukrainian establishment that were out to get the president. That's a very reasonable belief of his. Correct?
TAYLOR: I ... I don't know.
CASTOR: The run up to the 2016 election, there's many facts that remain unresolved. Agreed?
TAYLOR: I'm sorry. What's the question?
How dare those wily Ukrainians smear Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort, currently in jail for failing to pay tax on all the money paid to him by Ukrainian oligarchs and stashed offshore, as dishonest in his business dealings! GRRRR, Steve Castor's eyebrows are constipated with RAGE.
CASTOR: Okay. So Hunter Biden's added to the board of Burisma. Now, do you think that creates a problem that Burisma may be adding people to its board for protection purposes?
KENT: Sir, I work for the government. I don't work in the corporate sector, and so I believe that companies build their boards with a variety of reasons, not only to promote their business plans.
CASTOR: Was Hunter Biden a corporation governance expert?
KENT: I have no idea what Hunter Biden studied at university or what his CV says.
CASTOR: Like, is he the Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Ukraine?
KENT: I have no awareness or knowledge of what his background was and what he may have done on the board of Burisma.
CASTOR: So you don't know whether he has any business experience in Ukraine prior to joining Burisma's board?
KENT: I've heard nothing about prior experience, no.
CASTOR: Okay. Do you know if he speaks Ukrainian?
KENT: I do not.
Oh, hey! You know who does speak Ukrainian? George Kent and Bill Taylor. So if they describe the Ukrainian readout of Trump's shakedown call as "cryptic" it's probably not "because it's initially written in Ukrainian and translated to the US." And while we're on the subject of shit Castor should have known before opening his pie hole about it in open hearing, look at this asshole try to make it seem like Kent and Taylor were excluded from the preparations for the treason shakedown call because they are DEEEEP STAAAAAATE:
CASTOR: Now, were either of you involved with the preparation for the 7/25 call?
TAYLOR: I was not.
KENT: I was not.
CASTOR: And how do you account for that? I mean, you are two of the key officials with responsibility for Ukrainian policy. If the president of the United States is going to have a call with the leader of Ukraine, why wouldn't you ordinarily be involved with the preparation?
KENT: Sir, we work for the Department of State in an embassy overseas, and in preparation for a presidential phone call, that responsibility lies within the staff of the National Security Council. Normally, if there is enough sufficient time, national security staff can solicit information, usually from the State Department, and we can draw on the embassy. But that's only background information. And my understanding, having never worked at the National Security Council, is that national security staff write a memo to the president. And none of us see that outside of the national security staff.
CASTOR: Okay. So the Chargé, or the US ambassador to the country, wouldn't ordinarily be on a call with a foreign leader?
TAYLOR: That's correct.
Gotta get you one of those teevee lawyers who knows you're not supposed to ask a question you don't already know the answer to!
But Republicans are saying they're satisfied with Castor's performance and can't wait to see him take apart the rest of the witnesses. Marie Yovanovitch must be shakin' in her sensible, wedge-heeled, highly educated, thirty years of experience staring down dictators, take no prisoners boots. You bet!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.