It is fitting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose Halloween to treat the Trump-hating Democrat base to a resolution formalizing the impeachment process against President Trump while tricking the American people into thinking that the process will be fair. The resolution was passed by the extremely partisan vote of 232-196, with all Republicans who voted opposing it and all but two Democrats voting yes along with one independent. Pretending that this exercise was anything but a crass effort to reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election with bogus accusations, Pelosi put on her mask of virtue during the debate preceding the vote and read from the preamble of the Constitution. She solemnly proclaimed, “What is at stake in all this is nothing less than our democracy.” What Pelosi and her henchman Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, are doing is to drive a stake into the fundamental constitutional principles of due process and the rule of law.
The resolution formalizes a set of rules that essentially ratify the closed-door star chamber proceedings that Schiff has been conducting for several weeks. He will continue to conduct such proceedings with selective leaks to manipulate public opinion against the president. The public will only be able to see whatever redacted transcripts of the closed-door depositions that Schiff in his sole discretion decides eventually to release. Schiff will still be able to stifle any questioning he does not like of witnesses by Republican members, as he reportedly has done in the past. The Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, will have to ask Schiff for permission to request or subpoena testimony from witnesses and for the production of materials Republicans would like to examine. The Republican minority’s only recourse if Schiff refuses to concur is the right of appeal to the whole Democrat-run Intelligence Committee. This Kafkaesque procedure would even extend to a Republican request to hear from the original whistleblower, who the Democrats evidently no longer feel is a necessary witness. How strange that is since it was the whistleblower’s complaint about alleged presidential abuse of power to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival that started us down the path that we are on today in the first place.
Since Schiff himself is a fact witness as to prior dealings between members of his staff and the whistleblower before the whistleblower filed his complaint, Schiff should at minimum recuse himself from having any say as to whether the whistleblower can be called as a witness. According to a report by Paul Sperry in RealClearInvestigations, the person most likely to be the whistleblower is “a registered Democrat held over from the Obama White House” who “previously worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director John Brennan.” This individual, Mr. Sperry wrote, “huddled for ‘guidance’ with the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, including former colleagues also held over from the Obama era whom Schiff’s office had recently recruited from the NSC [National Security Council].” He was also reportedly involved in anti-Trump related activities both before and after President Trump took office. As a matter of fundamental fairness, Republicans should have the unfettered right to subpoena this individual in order to get to the bottom of whatever political motives to bring down the president sparked the Ukrainegate imbroglio.
Only after Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee submits its report and materials that it has collected to the House Judiciary Committee, led by the Trump-hating impeachment zealot Rep. Jerrold Nadler, will there supposedly be procedures in place “to allow for the participation of the President and his counsel.” The Democrat majority will be free to limit the scope of such participation as much as they like. Moreover, just as is the case with the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins, will have to obtain Nadler’s concurrence for witnesses and production of materials. Again, the Republican minority’s only recourse if Nadler refuses to concur is the right of appeal to the whole Democrat-run Judiciary Committee – the same Kafkaesque procedure that the Democrats can continue to use to block testimony from the whistleblower or any individual who may contradict their narrative.
When the Judiciary Committee concludes it proceedings, the resolution says, it “shall report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper.”
If the near unanimous Democrat vote for the House Halloween impeachment process resolution is any indication, the Democrat majority is poised to impeach President Trump without the need for any more time-consuming hearings. Pelosi and Schiff, to be followed in due course by Nadler, are just putting on a show. They are trying to use the steady drip, drip, drip of leaks from Schiff’s committee to turn the tide of public opinion further in favor of impeaching President Trump, hoping to peel some Republican votes in the House away from supporting the president and putting pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate that will be conducting the trial. Once the public phase of the impeachment hearings begins, the Democrats will trot out the witnesses they think will make the most impression on television. They certainly do not want a repeat of the Mueller fiasco. The closed-door depositions are serving as useful auditions.
While various witnesses have provided their own interpretations of the July 25, 2019 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and whether there was a quid prop quo based largely on hearsay and their own subjective opinions, the one witness with first-hand knowledge that appears to have caused the most stir is Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman. He is a decorated officer in the U.S. Army with years of diplomatic and national security experience, who came to the United States with his family from his native Ukraine when he was 3 years old.
Colonel Vindman testified earlier this week in private to House impeachment investigators, recounting what he heard from listening in to the July 25th call. Colonel Vindman claimed that key portions of that conversation were omitted from the detailed memo of the call released by the White House, which he tried to have added with mixed success. The colonel reportedly told investigators of concerns he shared with his superiors regarding what he perceived as demands being made on the Ukraine government at the highest levels to open investigations that would benefit President Trump politically. These investigations were intended specifically to center on alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as on the employment relationship Joe Biden’s son Hunter had with a Ukrainian energy firm and Joe Biden’s alleged role in getting the prosecutor fired who was investigating the firm. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen,” Colonel Vindman said in his opening statement to the investigators, “and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.” He added, “This would all undermine U.S. national security.”
Colonel Vindman reportedly said that one of the omissions from the July 25th call memo was President Trump’s mention of a recording of Joe Biden discussing Ukraine corruption and that another omission was President Zelensky’s specific mention of Burisma Holdings, the name of the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden. Colonel Vindman said he was unable to have these omissions rectified. However, assuming that both these statements were made during the call but omitted from the memo, so what? The recording, presumably the one in which Joe Biden boasted how he managed to get Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, hurts Biden more than it hurts President Trump. In any case, the call memo alludes to President Trump’s mention of the subject of this recording when the president was quoted as saying, “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it.”
As for Colonel Vindman’s claim that the call memo omitted President Zelensky’s specific reference to Burisma, the memo quoted President Zelensky, shortly after President Trump’s mention of Biden, as referring to “the company that you mentioned in this issue.” Perhaps it would have been more meticulous to include the specific name Burisma in the call memo, but this amounts to no more than form over substance.
The problem with Colonel Vindman’s testimony, as reported, for the Democrats is that it does not provide proof to advance their ‘inappropriate pressure on Ukraine’ narrative against the president. When asked to substantiate his claim of a “demand” for Ukraine to “investigate a U.S. citizen,” Colonel Vindman was reportedly unable to do so. He was simply interpreting a request by the president of the United States as inherently equivalent to a demand that the president of Ukraine could not refuse. The Ukrainian president is in a better position than Colonel Vindman to say whether he felt pressured. He said he did not, which makes sense since the Ukrainians did not know that hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid had been withheld at the time of the July 25th call. The subject of Ukraine defense came up during the call only in the context of President Zelensky’s statement that “we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes” after he had thanked President Trump for his “great support in the area of defense.” In any case, if there were a demand as Colonel Vindman claimed, why was the military aid that had been withheld released in September without such “demand” being met? The Ukrainian government had not issued the public statement committing to the investigations that were allegedly being sought by Rudy Giuliani and others in President Trump’s inner circle as the purported condition for resumption of the aid and a White House meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump.
The Democrats are using foreign policy and national security establishment witnesses unhappy with President Trump’s skepticism towards Ukraine to pile on the president with repetitious assertions. It is a cynical masquerade that, like the debunked Russian collusion conspiracy theory pushed so relentlessly by Schiff until it ran out of steam, is all about delegitimizing President Trump’s victory in the 2016 election and putting an albatross around the president’s neck as he runs for re-election.