Here’s What “Really Happened” at the Impeachment Inquisition
Did you see it? I’ll understand if you missed the show.
I followed the so-called “Impeachment” spectacle of the past two weeks; so that you didn’t have to.
There’s media spin, of course; and then there’s what really happened…
The media spin is…
House Democrats ripped the guts out of the Trump administration. Orange Man is now ruined as we enter year four of his illegitimate Presidency. If Putin’s Puppet is not removed after the inevitable Impeachment vote in the House and follow-on Senate trial, the idea is to toxify America’s political climate in the runup to the 2020 election. Trump is toast…
Then again, here’s what really happened…
The evidence indicates that we no longer live in Ben Franklin’s “republic.” Nor does the idea of democracy matter. We dwell in a land ruled by imperious people who play the role of National Prosecutor, if not Inquisitor.
That is, American voters no longer decide much. Vote for whomever you want to be the town snowplow driver. But President? Hey, after election day come the lawyers. Or lawyer-politicians, with their lapdog assistant lawyers, aided by staff-puke lawyers.
As we learned over the past two weeks, the only people who truly matter in America today are elected and unelected attorneys. They run the country.
This is modern American governance…
In his 1835 work Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
“A decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of Impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office.”
The prescient Alexis de Tocqueville disembarked in the U.S. long ago, planning to study the country’s prison system. Instead, he wound up dissecting U.S. politics. He stared deep within the political soul of the nation, and wrote a monumental analysis. Hold that thought…
You can like President Trump, or not.
Trump is your cup of tea, or not.
Perhaps Trump drives you crazy with his personality, or not.
Maybe you’ll vote for Trump next November, or not.
Whatever your sentiments towards Trump, we’re less than a year from the 2020 election. Probably 130 million people or more will troop to the polls. They’ll vote Trump back in. Or they’ll vote him out. All in less than 12 months…
But that’s not good enough for some people. They want to hammer Trump now!
Per much media commentary, “Impeachment” hearings have nailed Trump. The hearings drove him into the dirt. Soon, he’ll be perp-walked out of the White House in leg-irons, bound for Guantanamo Bay.
Others believe that Trump’s accusers made fools of themselves. Trump’s Congressional defenders turned the whole matter into a turkey shoot. The Democrats’ witnesses were sliced, diced and shredded into metaphorical cat food.
Jesus… Mary… and Joseph!
Americans have long loved courtroom theater and television. Inherit the Wind. To Kill a Mockingbird. Perry Mason. LA Law. And so many more…
For two weeks, we’ve had Presidential-level “courtroom”-style drama; wall to wall, if you watched. Keep in mind though, that it was all show and made-for-TV.
Impeachment is not a legal matter. Impeachment might look legalistic; but at root it’s a political remedy. It’s specifically listed in the Constitution as power of Congress, via the House of Representatives to be exact. Per methodology of the House, the party in power makes the rules.
Then again, the Bill of Rights are also in the Constitution. And you know I’m correct here!
Bill of Rights? Look ‘em up…
You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that every accused person in America is entitled to some of that “due process” stuff. You see it in every television show about cops and lawyers.
Full disclosure… I actually am a lawyer. Licensed in Pennsylvania. Not practicing anymore, although I still pay the annual attorney assessment and maintain currency with CLE (Continuing Legal Education).
I’m a geologist, too. And I served in the Navy. Now I write newsletters…
But yes, I admit… Over the course of life, I spent 17 years in active law practice, “downtown” in Pittsburgh. Real law; real lawyering. Shoe-leather practice. State and federal courts. And pro hac vice appearances in other courts from New York to California. I know a few things about law and litigating.
Thus, despite my better instincts I was drawn to the Impeachment hearings; where my first reaction was utter shock. These “hearings” were a pseudo-legalistic sham. A spectacle. Showboating. Alexis de Tocqueville rolls in his grave!
Where to begin…
Where to begin? How about… Rules of Evidence?
I saw Congress-people and hired staff – many with degrees from fine institutions like Harvard Law School – violating and ignoring every Rule of Evidence in the book. (Yes, there’s actually a “book.” It’s called the Federal Rules of Evidence.)
Call me old fashioned. But “I object” to eliciting raw hearsay testimony, leading and coaching witnesses, skipping over facts not in evidence, arguing conclusions… much more. It just ain’t right… Seems kind of Stalinist and “show trial”-ish.
If I was a law school instructor, I’d use examples from this kangaroo-Impeachment proceeding to teach a semester-long course in Evidence. On how NOT to do it. It was that bad… In this political pageant, the “rules” were that there were no rules.
Impeachment manager – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) – made things up as he skipped along. To paraphrase that great line from the classic, 1948 film Treasure of the Sierra Madre, “We don’t need no Rules of Evidence.”
How bad was it? Disgraceful. I fantasized about the President and Fellows of Harvard University contacting Rep. Schiff and requesting that he return the university’s law degree.
Alexis de Tocqueville was ahead of his times. “Decline of public morals?” This Impeachment thing was scripted, political soap opera. Of course, every opera needs its characters.
In this case, the canaries of choice were a series of Top People from the State Department and National Security Council (NSC); straight from Central Casting, as it turned out.
For example, consider the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor; quite a guy…
West Point, Vietnam vet, Harvard graduate school. Then stints at Departments of Energy and Defense. Over to State, and onwards to Brussels, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union, Iraq, Afghanistan and… Ukraine.
Impressive. Except there’s a problem. Ambassador Taylor had no first-hand knowledge of just about anything.
Did he listen in on President Trump’s July telephone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky?
Amb. Taylor: “I did not.”
Has he ever spoken with White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney?
Amb. Taylor: “I never did.”
And Taylor has never met President Trump, right?
Amb. Taylor: “That’s correct.”
This guy was the leadoff batter in the impeachment lineup. Whiff… Whiff… Whiff…
Amb. Taylor testified about what others told him, and discussed his opinion about U.S.-Ukraine relations. Basically, Trump has a different view on U.S.-Ukraine than the professional bureaucrats. Is that a crime? Actually, no… per no less than Amb. Taylor.
Then there was the second witness, State Department official George Kent.
Again, he’s a distinguished fellow who drips with academic wax and ribbons. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, National Defense University. Fluent in multiple languages. And what did we learn from this well-credentialed scholar?
Kent testified that in his experience, Ukraine is massively corrupt. Indeed, “Conditions have always been placed on aid to Ukraine including anti-corruption…”
Hmm… Ukraine… Corrupt… Seems like prudence is in order, no?
Indeed, in 2015 Kent even raised concerns within the State Department and Obama administration about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian gas company. (Of course, Hunter is the son of former Vice president Joe Biden.) It was all swept under the rug, though.
We heard from Marie Yovanovich, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Princeton. National Defense University. Long time State Department diplomat… And relieved of position by the Orange Man, a couple of months before the infamous telephone call of July 25. She knows nothing. Not first-hand, anyhow. But President Trump hurt her feelings. Or something.
From the NSC side of the stage, LtCol. Alexander Vindman showed up as well; inspection-ready in his Army dress blues and medals. He forgot to drag along his PhD diploma from Harvard, but was quick to chastise a Member of Congress who addressed him as “Mister,” saying that “It’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.”
Aside from making snarky comments, Vindman’s beef with the U.S. President is that the man who holds the nation’s Executive Power insisted on conducting foreign policy in a manner that diverges from the “interagency” consensus of government bureaucrats. Orange Man Bad, in other words.
Meanwhile, Vindman admitted that he was offered the job of Minister of Defense of Ukraine. Just sort of a joke, though. Nothing to see here… Move along.
Later, we heard from Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union. He’s a political appointee who essentially bought the job; and it showed. When you dissect and discount all the hearsay and opinion testimony from Sondland, he spent the day contradicting himself.
For my money, the most intriguing witness was Fiona Hill, Harvard PhD. A coal miner’s daughter who immigrated from northern England, she played it straight down the middle.
Hill had no first-hand knowledge of any wrongdoing by Trump. She even acknowledged that U.S. Presidents are allowed to make foreign policy decisions. But she left the NSC in mid-July, before the infamous telephone call of July25. She’s no fact-witness.
Hill did make some interesting revelations. Such as that the NSC “interagency consensus” of the Obama administration was to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. However, for political reasons this didn’t happen. It was the Trump administration that delivered the anti-tank rockets.
And Hill discussed Russian efforts to toss the proverbial monkey wrench into U.S. elections in 2016, and upcoming in 2020. Interesting, but we didn’t need Congressional hearings to know that.
All in all, after two weeks the verdict is…
We’re looking at policy differences between the Trump approach to foreign relations and military aid, versus the long-term bureaucrats, aka Deep State. Political? Yes. Criminal? Hardly. Proper legal procedure? Not just no, but hell no…
May I let you in on a secret?
The Impeachment effort is not about Ukraine. It’s not about U.S. aid. Not about “quid pro quo.” Not about Javelin missiles, delivered in September versus July or August.
It gets back to what Alexis de Tocqueville said. Right now, Impeachment is about the “public morals of the United States.”
Rather than wait for a year until the election, Trump’s opponents want to crush him now and eject him from office. That’s where we are…
As I wrote in a recent article, over time people and societies get what they deserve. That’s what worries me.
On that note, I rest my case.
That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
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