The Democratic leaders may soon learn the wisdom of Oscar Wilde’s warning that “when the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has so far delayed the submission of the impeachment of President Trump to the Senate to force a trial with witnesses. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has declared any trial of Trump without witnesses to be nothing less than the “most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.” Leaders of both parties know that impeachment often boils down to one unpredictable element: witnesses.
For those who have the votes, witnesses are an unnecessary risk. For those who don’t, they are an absolute necessity.
On Friday, Schumer insisted that “there is only one precedent that matters here: that never, never in the history of our country, has there been an impeachment trial of the president where the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses.”
Put another way, Schumer does not have the votes and thus needs the witnesses. Schumer now wants to hear from the witnesses who never testified before the House, which rushed through an impeachment without seeking to compel testimony from key officials. One of those, former national security adviser John Bolton, said Monday he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.
In the Clinton impeachment trial 21 years ago, Schumer and the Democrats opposed hearing from witnesses. In that impeachment chapter, the Democrats had the votes. Lacking the votes this time, the unpredictability of witnesses now appeals to Schumer and his party. But only up to a point. Schumer has opposed the suggested Republican witnesses as a mere “distraction.”
One witness in particular could prove not just a distraction but a disaster: Hunter Biden.
In a conventional trial, Biden would be a relevant defense witness. Biden’s testimony would have bearing on a key question in an abuse-of-power trial. Trump insists that he raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy firm to the Ukrainian president as part of an overall concern he had about ongoing corruption in that country. If that contract with the son of a former vice president could be shown to be a corrupt scheme to advance the interests of a foreign company or country, it might be Trump’s best defense.
Under Federal Rule of Evidence 401, courts will often review possible testimony under the standard of whether “it has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Even before the adoption of the Bill of Rights, Congress enacted a statute reaffirming the right of the “defense to make any proof that he can produce by lawful witnesses” in cases of treason and capitol cases. This right to present a defense has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme Court including in the 1967 opinion in Washington v. Texas, where the Court ruled that “the right to offer the testimony of witnesses and to compel their attendance, if necessary, is in plain terms the right to present the defense, the right to present the defendant’s version of the facts . . . Just as an accused has the right to confront the prosecution’s witnesses for the purpose of challenging their testimony, he has the right to present his own witnesses to establish a defense.”
Trump’s position is that he did not arbitrarily ask a country to investigate a possible political rival. Had Trump called for an investigation into Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) husband, for example, without a scintilla of proof of corruption, it would be entirely indefensible. However, the Biden contract was so openly corrupt it would have made Jack Abramoff blush. Even in the United States, lobbyists and companies will often give family members undeserved lucrative jobs and contracts to curry favor with powerful politicians. Overseas, it is standard operating procedure. Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a businessman and former member of the Ukrainian parliament, said Biden was made a director “to protect (the company)” from investigation by U.S. and Ukrainian officials. Even Hunter Biden admitted that the position was given to him because of his father. Hunter Biden was paid at least $50,000 a month and possibly more.
Biden stepped down from the Burisma board only when his father announced his candidacy in April 2019. Ukraine assured Trump that it was cracking down on corruption when, just a few months earlier, Biden had been receiving monthly retainers from Burisma.
If the Biden contract was an ongoing corrupt effort to secure influence and money from the United States, Trump’s reference to it in a discussion of corruption has a possible public purpose. While one can certainly conclude that self-dealing by the president is a plausible explanation, there is no question that the testimony of Biden would be relevant.
Schumer knows that neither Biden nor his contract will show well under the glare of a public impeachment trial. In addition to his glaring lack of relevant experience, the younger Biden has a checkered history – from drug addiction to being thrown out of the Naval Reserve – that would have led most companies to avoid him. The trial might also force the public to consider Joe Biden’s failure to ask about his son’s dubious foreign dealings. Joe Biden himself seems delusional in claiming, “No one has said my son did anything wrong.”
For the Democrats, witnesses are a dangerous game. The worse that Hunter Biden looks, the better Trump looks in raising the contract. That is the problem with asking for witnesses in a Senate trial. They can take you to places you might prefer not to go.
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Jonathan Turley is the chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and served as the last lead counsel in an impeachment trial before the Senate in defense of Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr.
When did this fiasco become a trial? Because Adam Schiff did not allow the Republicans any witnesses, and he ran it like a third world country does business! Calling this a trial after the way Schiff ran it, could only be a trial if Schiff were subpoenaed to testify, along with Pelosi! They are not above the law, remember they said that a lot when this witch hunt began!
No one is above the law, not Pelosi, Schiff, the whistle blower, no one! Chuck Schumer isn’t above the law, or is he? When he raped his 16 year old daughters best friend, he was above the law! When Ted Kennedy’s car hit that bridge killing the passenger while he was drunk, he was above the law! Hillary Clinton is above the law, Obama is above the law, Holder is above the law! Al Sharpton, more of a pimp than a Reverend, but hey, it’s working for him, he’s above the law!
we need to stop this nonsense
They hired an Obama attorney to head up the team to address the FISA COURT Issues? Nothing changes, they let that Kenyan bastard off the hook for spying on Americans and used one of his own attorneys to fix the system? Negro-Please!’ This double standard must end!
Why is the FBI, and the justice system, “deep-state, all that, why are they so loyal to Obama? Harvard lists Obama as Kenya Born, and Indonesia Raised! Harvard, is the apex of all studies, when they say a Harvard Study Shows, everyone pays attention! Why is this not getting the same attention? Obama, and his Father, according to Harvard, both Kenya Born! Does anyone know what the Constitution says about a foreign born individual running for POTUS? The DNC is WAY ABOVE THE LAW! This travesty must be taken up by the Supreme Court! All this mess, all this Hatred, and Division began when that fraud Obama became POTUS!
he needs to be arrested and all illegal gains returned to the American people
This Country has been under attack since Kenya Born. and Indonesia Raised, Obama was fraudulently inaugurated! The DNC knowingly supported a foreign born individual for POTUS!
No one, according to Pelosi, and Schiff, is above the law! That would most certainly have to include the non-elected, leader of the DNC, George Soros! Would it not?
Nancy Pelosi, and Schiff, must have said “no one, is above the law” 1000 times in the past 4 months, the Justice Department is ending their efforts to find that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation has done any wrong! No one is above the law? The FBI so loyal to a foreign born fraud from Kenya, that they will not prosecute Hillary Clinton for conducting classified government business from her home, on a non secure server? No one is above the law!
People, when the law is one sided, you have a problem! This Country cannot stand with a one-sided justice-system!
This Country has lost its soul, this Country is so corrupt that it can’t come back! It was bound to happen, when your government armed services, murders innocent men, women, and children with bullets, the butt of a gun, boots and horses, while stealing their land, it has to come back around! When your government just takes land that Mexicans have worked and occupied for centuries, stained with their blood, it’s gonna come back around! The way the DNC has handled their business since knowingly supporting a foreign born individual for POTUS, rigging their own party’s Presidential Nomination Election, and telling their own voters that we are ignoring your will because we know better than you, that HRC can beat Donald Trump, not Bernie Sanders! When the People, who work for the People, in America stop listening to the People they work for, that’s a problem! Judgement on the United States of America is upon us!
Y’all can have Obama, and Hillary, and a one-sided justice system, screw this, I’m out of here! I’m gonna pack my shit and leave here, this is not my America!
Stick around Bobby we need more like you