Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist No. 65, dealing with impeachments in the House of Representatives and trials in the Senate, that during the impeachment phase there may often be “animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” He hoped the Senate would be able to determine guilt or innocence and serve impartially “between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, pressing hard for the House to formally become President Trump’s “accusers” and hand over articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial, is displaying the worst traits that Alexander Hamilton described.
The latest example is Schiff’s refusal to let the American people hear from the whistleblower, whose complaint containing a secondhand account of President Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave rise to the impeachment inquiry against President Trump in the first place. The whistleblower’s testimony is “redundant and unnecessary,” Schiff said in a letter to Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes rejecting House Republicans’ request for the whistleblower to testify during the public phase of the impeachment inquiry hearings. Schiff claimed that the impeachment inquiry already “has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence — from witnesses and documents, including the president’s own words in his July 25 call record — that not only confirms but far exceeds the initial information in the whistleblower’s complaint.”
As usual, Schiff is lying to rationalize the extreme one-sided way he is conducting his sham hearings. Originally, Schiff himself had said the whistleblower would appear before Congress “very soon,” but changed his mind after reports surfaced of the whistleblower’s contacts with members of Schiff’s staff before filing the complaint. The whistleblower’s testimony as to the identity of his or her sources is highly relevant to ensuring a fair proceeding and making a complete record for the Senate to consider as the trier of fact. So are the whistleblower’s biases and motives for coming forward and filing a complaint after having first contacted members of Schiff’s staff. Who did the whistleblower talk to, what did they say to the whistleblower that became the basis for the whistleblower’s complaint, and where did the whistleblower’s sources tell the whistleblower they got their information about the July 25th call?
The complaint did not match in some material respects what the president said as memorialized in the publicly released memo of the call, despite Schiff’s false claims to the contrary. Moreover, from what we have learned so far from the released deposition transcripts, there appears to have been more of a sharing of interpretations of President Trump’s intentions among like-minded individuals opposed to the president’s policies in Ukraine than a factual account of what the witnesses actually heard or observed the president say or do.
The whistleblower complaint alleged – falsely, as it turned out – that “after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.” In truth, the call dealt with a range of matters unrelated to Joe Biden or his son. The two leaders discussed sanctions against Russia, Europe’s lack of adequate assistance to Ukraine and of enforcement of the sanctions as compared to the United States, and the new Ukrainian government’s intention to clean up the rampant corruption problem that has plagued Ukraine for years. We also know from the call memo that President Trump’s request for a “favor” from the Ukrainian president had nothing to do with Biden. It had to do with an issue involving possible Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Biden’s name did not come up until later in the call.
The call memo evidences the fact that there were no conditions – no quid pro quo – placed by President Trump on providing aid to Ukraine or setting up a face-to-face meeting with the Ukrainian president that required President Zelensky’s commitment to dig up dirt on the Bidens. None of the witnesses whose deposition transcripts have been released so far provided any firsthand account of words they actually heard President Trump say on the call that mentioned the suspension of military aid in any context, much less any demands imposed on President Zelensky that tied the release of military aid or a White House meeting to President Zelensky’s commitment to open an investigation into the Bidens. Moreover, President Zelensky said that he did not feel “pushed” by President Trump to do anything involving the 2020 election.
We need to know whether any of the whistleblower’s sources are the witnesses who have or will be testifying for the Democrats. If so, in order to help assess the witnesses’ credibility, we need to be able to compare their testimony to what the whistleblower says they told him or her.
Most of the witnesses, just like the whistleblower, recounted what they had heard second or thirdhand about the July 25th call. However, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who also testified, did listen in on the call and gave his interpretation that President Trump had made a demand. Col. Vindman said, “I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications to the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.” (p. 18) But Col. Vindman’s characterization in his opening statement of something he heard the president say as a demand does not make it a demand. When Col. Vindman was asked by Rep. Radcliffe to point out the words used by President Trump to back up his claim that the president had made a demand to investigate a U.S. citizen, Col. Vindman replied, “I just wrote it the way I kind of felt it. And that’s the way I described it.” He “felt” that a request by the president of the United States is inherently equivalent to a demand that the president of Ukraine could not refuse. (PP. 147-148) Later on, Col. Vindman explained that his strong misgivings about what he interpreted President Trump meant during the call, which he passed on to his superior and some national security counterparts, reflected his “moral and ethical judgment.” (p. 155)
Thus, it turns out that Col. Vindman, who listened in on the July 25th call and passed on his concerns to others about what he had heard, was conveying little more than his own interpretation of what he thought the president meant during the call, even though Col. Vindman admitted in his testimony, “I don’t know what was in the President’s mind and if that was the intent.” (p. 258) It is highly relevant to know whether Col. Vindman passed on his concerns about what he speculated were the president’s intentions to other witnesses, who in turn testified as to their secondhand knowledge of the call, as well as to the whistleblower. More objective fact finders than Schiff and his cronies would want to know whether there was more of an echo chamber among establishment foreign policy and national security critics of the president than separate presentations of hard evidence from unbiased witnesses of wrongdoing by the president.
The House Republicans would also like to hear testimony from Hunter Biden. The Democrats are objecting. “This inquiry is not and will not serve as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit,” Schiff said.
“We want to stay focused on the Ukraine call. And having Hunter Biden come in is unrelated to the Ukraine call,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said on ABC’s “This Week.”
How can Hunter Biden’s testimony not be directly relevant to the Ukraine call? The Democrats’ whole case against President Trump revolves around the president’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine into re-opening an investigation of the Ukrainian company that Hunter worked for, Burisma. The investigation had been shut down when the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the company was fired at then-Vice President Joe Biden’s urging. Col. Vindman even confirmed in his testimony that “Burisma was notorious as a corrupt entity, and the oligarch responsible also.” (p. 320) He then testified that “I think even as far back as, you know, 2016, there was an investigation into Burisma, and I frankly don’t recall, there may have even been some sort of Hunter Biden exercise I don’t recall.” (pp. 320-321)
Perhaps Col. Vindman needs to have his recollection refreshed about the “some sort of Hunter Biden exercise,” considering that Hunter Biden, who had no experience or knowledge about Ukraine or the energy industry, managed to secure a high paying position on the corrupt Burisma’s board at the time that his father was serving as the Obama administration’s point man in Ukraine. Who better to tell the American people how he got on the Burisma board, what his duties were to deserve his high salary, his communications with his father and other members of the Obama administration, and whether he leveraged the Biden name on behalf of Burisma than Hunter Biden himself?
George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs who was deputy chief of mission in the United States Embassy in Kiev from 2015 until 2018, testified to impeachment investigators that he raised with a member of then-Vice President Joe Biden’s staff his concern that “Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest.” (p. 227) Mr. Kent’s concern was not raised with Joe Biden, however. Hunter Biden remained on the Burisma board, while Joe Biden was demanding, as a condition for releasing U.S. loan guarantees, the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma’s corruption.
The House Democrats would have us believe as a matter of faith that Joe Biden was motivated purely by the national interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, without a single thought in his mind about the impact on his son Hunter of continuing the investigation of the corrupt company his son worked for. At the same time, according to the House Democrats, it is impossible to conceive of the fact that a corruption investigation of Burisma was prematurely closed when Hunter was on Burisma’s board and his father was then the Obama administration’s point man in Ukraine. They would rather let those responsible for Burisma’s corruption off the hook than risk embarrassing the leading Democrat candidate now running for president.
The Democrats railroading the impeachment investigation are an embarrassment to the nation. As Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” if Democrats persist in vetoing witnesses the Republicans request to testify, they would be “doubling down on stupid. The American people are going look at this and go, ‘I get it. They’re going to give the president a fair and impartial firing squad.'”