The following article was submitted to The Minuteman by John H. Wilson.
The day long predicted has finally come to pass – the Senate has begun to hear the case against President Donald Trump on the charges of Abuse of Power, and Obstruction of Congress. But before we all move on and await the promised next effort by House Democrats to remove the President from office, several lessons should be learned from this travesty of justice.
First and foremost among these lessons – the rush to impeachment was unnecessary. The House voted for the Articles of Impeachment on December 18, 2019, after several months of investigation and hearings in several House committees. At the time, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that “the President…will be held accountable…The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”
The vote for impeachment in the House was taken, as described by Stephen Miller in Spectator, “without hearing from a single witness present at Trump’s questionable phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky. Not the famed and anonymous ‘whistleblower’…and not Secretary Pompeo or even John Bolton…It’s a wake-up call to Chairman Jerry Nadler, who was caught dozing off at his own impeachment hearing.”
After moving forward with the vote, Speaker Pelosi then refused to transmit the Articles to the Senate until January 15, 2020, almost one month later. The basis for the delay? As described in Politico, to give the Speaker time to convince the Senate “to allow new testimony from first-hand witnesses on Trump’s withholding of military aid in Ukraine. That includes former national security adviser John Bolton.”
Sure enough, once the trial began in the Senate, the proceedings were delayed for approximately 12 hours while the Senate considered a series of amendments from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), concerning the issuance of subpoenas for various documents and additional witnesses, including John Bolton. All of these Amendments were tabled along party lines – that is, the Senate will consider whether it wants additional information or witnesses after hearing the case presented by the House Managers.
Consider then, what actually happened here. The House conducted an investigation, voted for an impeachment, but then delayed sending that impeachment to the Senate, and then asked the Senate, through Senator Schumer, to order the production of additional information.
Speaking as an attorney, it is highly unusual for one of the parties to a trial to ask for the production of additional documents or witnesses on the eve of trial.
Why couldn’t the House get this information or witnesses during its own investigation? The short answer is, they chose not to. John Bolton, for instance, was asked to appear before the House Intelligence Committee, but was never subpoenaed. The stated reason? As described by CNN, “Should the fight over Bolton’s testimony go to court, it would likely lead to a prolonged process that would extend beyond the House impeachment efforts, which they are looking to wrap up before the end of the year. ”
In fact, the House never sought enforcement of any subpoenas or requests for documents and witnesses they claim to have been unanswered by the Trump Administration, because House Democrats wanted to meet an arbitrary year end deadline for impeachment. Ironically, after rushing to meet this deadline, it bears repeating that Speaker Pelosi then delayed forwarding the Articles to the Senate, so she could arrange for the Senate to agree to seek the production of these witnesses and documents.
In other words, Speaker Pelosi wants the Senate to do the job the House did not do in its rush to impeach the President.
Why this “hurry up and wait?” Why struggle to vote an impeachment before the end of the year, only to postpone consideration of that same impeachment for almost a month?
The answer lies outside the process being conducted before the Senate, and in the world of real politics.
It is no secret that the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate is Joe Biden. Despite his gaffs, confusion, and mediocre campaign, he remains the favorite. Biden continues to lead the polls in Iowa, and is a close second to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire.
Further, it is no coincidence that the Bidens, father and son, are at the heart of the underlying controversy regarding President Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky. While Democrats describe the President’s actions as an attempt to smear a political rival, what is unreasonable about asking for evidence of corruption against a person who seeks our country’s highest office?
It is also noteworthy that the delay in transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate has pulled three Senators running for the Democratic nomination off the campaign trail just prior to the all-important Iowa Caucus – Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar. In particular, Senator Klobuchar had seen some increase in her polling numbers just before the last candidates’ debate. To remove these three candidates from their campaigns and sequester them in a room without their cell phones or other electronic devices can only help their rival – Joe Biden.
In this light, the actions of Speaker Pelosi and her fellow Democrats make perfect sense.
It should also be noted that Speaker Pelosi has gone on record to declare that “impeachment is forever,” in her belief that President Trump is somehow tainted by a partisan, one-sided process. Clearly, her plan has been to give the Democratic candidate an advantage over the President in the coming election.
Rarely have we seen such raw, unvarnished manipulation of our laws and procedures than that conducted by Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic Party allies. Yet, we can take comfort in our final lesson – the system is working as the Founding Fathers intended. The Senate is acting as a check on the power of the House, and in the end, it is the People who will decide who holds the office of President.
John H. Wilson is a former judge of the Criminal Court, New York City. He currently serves as a Mediator for First Court, located in Mandan, ND.
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