Let the Chutzpah Games begin! The House Judiciary Committee released its official report to the full House on its two articles of impeachment, which starts the clock ticking for a floor vote later this week. The report essentially regurgitates the same claims that started the inquiry, without noting that the hearings never produced any direct evidence or testimony to support them:
On that July 25 call, President Zelensky expressed gratitude for past American defense support and indicated that he was ready to buy more anti-tank weapons from the United States. In response, President Trump immediately asked President Zelensky to “do us a favor, though.” He asked Ukraine to announce two bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., then his leading opponent in the 2020 election, and another to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked our elections in 2016. One investigation was designed to help him gain an advantage in the 2020 election. The other was intended to help President Trump conceal the truth about the 2016 election. Neither investigation was supported by the evidence or premised on any legitimate national security or foreign policy interest.
After the call with President Zelensky, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. He continued to dangle the offer of the Oval Office meeting and to withhold the $391 million in military aid. The evidence shows that, on the same day that the call took place, Ukrainian officials became aware that funding had been withheld. The President also deployed his private attorney and other agents, some acting outside the official and regular channels of diplomacy, to make his desires known.
The report fails to note in this section that the House never did uncover any evidence of a quid pro quo, or indeed that one would have been objectively illegal even if they had. In the next section, chair Jerrold Nadler indirectly explains that failure by claiming that the White House obstructed their investigation by refusing to cooperate with its subpoenas and document demands. That leaves out a little something, too:
Fourth and finally, the report describes the second charge against President Trump: obstruction of Congress. President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry. Following his direction not to cooperate with the inquiry, the White House and other agencies refused to produce a single document in response to Congressional subpoenas. President Trump also attempted to muzzle witnesses, threatening to damage their careers if they agreed to testify, and even attacked one witness during her live testimony before Congress. To their great credit, many witnesses from across government–including from the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense–ignored the President’s unlawful orders and cooperated with the inquiry. In the end, however, nine senior officials followed President Trump’s direction and continue to defy duly authorized Congressional subpoenas. Other Presidents have recognized their obligation to provide information to Congress under these circumstances. President Trump’s stonewall, by contrast, was categorical, indiscriminate, and without precedent in American history.
That last claim is utterly false. Barack Obama did exactly the same thing in the Operation Fast & Furious probe, refusing to release internal documents related to the botched ATF gun-running operation by claiming executive privilege. In that case, the House went to court to force the release of the information, a case they eventually won. That same scenario has played out several times since the famous Watergate standoff over Richard Nixon’s tapes. In this case, however, House Democrats wanted to rush an impeachment and simply refused to attempt to enforce any of their subpoenas through the courts.
That brings us to their counterparts in the Senate. In order to have a fair trial, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claims, they will need Mitch McConnell to enforce those subpoenas:
"These four witnesses have direct knowledge of the facts, particularly in regard to the delay in the aid to Ukraine. … This is the right evidence." Senate Minority Leader @SenSchumer discusses his witness requests in the Senate impeachment trial. https://t.co/znD9JYveob pic.twitter.com/VtVYAdb88G
— New Day (@NewDay) December 16, 2019
The top Senate Democrat on Sunday called for subpoenaing several senior Trump administration officials who have yet to testify in the House’s impeachment probe as witnesses for President Trump’s likely trial — part of an opening salvo in negotiations that could determine the parameters for the Senate proceedings next month.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) outlined a number of procedural demands that Democrats say would make the Senate trial fair and able to be completed “within a reasonable period of time.”
That includes subpoenas issued by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, a senior adviser to Mulvaney; former national security adviser John Bolton; and Michael Duffey, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney, Blair and Duffey had been subpoenaed by the House committees and defied the summons; Bolton has not been subpoenaed but indicated he would fight one in court.
Ahem. If it’s the “right evidence,” then why didn’t Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler pursue the subpoenas before concluding that impeachment was necessary? And if this can be done “within a reasonable amount of time,” why didn’t Nadler and Schiff do it themselves?
Perhaps without realizing it, Schumer has undermined the obstruction article entirely. If there is time to pursue these subpoenas for the trial, then there was time for the House to do it too. Executive privilege may or may not cover these specific circumstances, but even in US v Nixon the court recognized it as a legitimate claim. In that case, the court ruled that it was limited and couldn’t be used to cover up evidence of a statutory crime. This impeachment has no statutory crime alleged, however, which means that Trump has an arguable claim that the House has no business subpoenaing his advisors over policy disagreements.
Schumer has also undermined the first article to a lesser degree. Even if one buys the argument that a quid pro quo would be an impeachable offense here, Schumer’s explicitly arguing that the case for it is incomplete. Otherwise, why would Schumer need more witnesses to testify? You only need more witnesses when your case is insufficient. Just on this claim alone, McConnell can argue for a direct vote for dismissal.
And finally, it takes some cojones to demand that McConnell go to court to force Democrats’ witnesses to appear when Democrats didn’t bother to do that in the first place. Come on, man.