The House impeachment hearings a week ago contained several unexpected twists, including the fact that three key witnesses were first-generation immigrants.

All were career government officers: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, born in Canada to parents who had fled the Soviet Union; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, born in Ukraine while it was part of the Soviet Union; and Fiona Hill, daughter of a British coal miner. 

Also, the parents of political appointee Ambassador Gordon Sondland were World War II refugees.    

Viewers of MSNBC probably got a kick out of the fact that the liberal-leaning network’s harshest Trump critic was Nicole Wallace, a former GOP operative for George W. Bush and John McCain. At one point, the hyperbolic Wallace proclaimed that Sondland, a million-dollar contributor to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, had taken a “blow torch” to the president’s defense. 

 Meanwhile on Fox News, Ken Starr, the Republican prosecutor who failed to convict President Bill Clinton during an impeachment trial in 1999, argued that the case against Trump was “ambiguous at best.”

One ambiguity that caught my ear was the pronunciation and spelling of the Ukrainian capital. 

When the hearings began, most of us would have spelled the capital as Kiev and pronounced it “KEY-yev.” Careful viewers, however, learned that the preferred spelling is Kyiv and the preferred pronunciation is closer to “keev.” 

“Kiev,” we were told, is a Russian derivation and is now considered an insult by most Ukrainians, roughly comparable to calling the capital of Iowa Dez Moynz.

At times, the hearings were rich with irony. For example, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch’s response to Republicans’ outrage over what they said was a lack of transparency and “firsthand” testimony.

“I’d be glad to have the person who started it all to come in and testify,” Welch responded with a sly smile. “President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.”   

Several witnesses noted that their testimonies were based on imperfect memories, because the Trump administration had denied them access to personal notes and other papers that would have helped them to clarify dates and to present a more accurate picture. 

Another incongruity involved a sensitive cellphone conversation between Sondland and Trump on July 26 in an open-air restaurant in Kyiv. An aide to the ambassador testified the call was so loud he could easily hear what the president was saying about the Ukrainian president.

Diplomatic professionals said the call was a major breach of security, and I expected someone to make the obvious comparison with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private computer server when she was secretary of state. But apparently neither side wanted to go there.  

 There was one curious sidelight to the July 26 cellphone call, but it received scant attention from either the committee or most media outlets. 

Sondland testified that the main purpose of the July 26 call was to respond to an earlier inquiry from Trump about the rapper A$AP Rocky, who at the time was in a Swedish jail following a street fight. 

Trump had been asked by pop star Kim Kardashian to help free the rapper, Sondland explained.

According to National Public Radio, “Trump sent a hostage negotiator to intervene,” but ultimately the president followed Sondland’s advice and allowed a Swedish court to decide the rapper’s fate and free him. 

The image of the Trump administration that emerged from the hearings reminded me of the title  of Jimmy Breslin’s 1969 mob novel, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

In any case, I can’t help but think that if the Ukrainian meddling was designed to smear Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, it was a fool’s mission.

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, Biden is quite capable of destroying his presidential aspirations without any outside help.