Courting Disaster? The Democrats Are Demanding Witnesses With One Notable Exception

Authored by Jonathan Turley via JonathanTurley.org,

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.

via zerohedge

20 comments

  1. To begin with, the democrats were NOT fair in their impeachment farce. Secondly, they house has NO say in how the trial is run.

    1. I have two words for the Corrupt Liberal Socialist Democrats and their demands upon the U.S. Senate Hearings. Get It?

  2. Hey Cucky, I left NY because of your bulls%&t, and now you want to tear down the rest of the country. I truly hope that a lightning bolt descends out of the heavens and strikes you dead, because that’s what you deserve! Pelosi, too! No, I actually you should be sent to GITMO, then shot for TREASON!

  3. It’s been “Sour Grapes”since President Trump was elected and it will always be “Sour Grapes” even when Don Jr.
    gets elected because the Democrats will eventually “Lose their Cushy, Do nothing jobs” and they don’t want anything to upset their Money Grabbing Schemes but that day is coming and they won’t be able to stop it !

    1. my idea is a little different. I want the demolibs to be granted to bring in new witnesses; then the repubs take their turn at calling witnesses. joe and hunter biden, dancin nancy pelosi, adam the schiff show, hilbitchery clinton, and the muslim- you know, barry. each of them have direct involvement in this impeachment scheme and Americans want to know what their stories are. the proof is in black and white print that clinton paid for the dossier that started this entire thing. obama was the insurance policy behind biden’s bragging about withholding $1billion from Ukraine till they fired the prosecutor investigating how hunter got his $50k/month job that he had no qualifications to do. pelosi and schiff both have kids working in Ukraine. Trump wants those people investigated too. this whole thing is treasonous and it involves people in federal gov’t office. let em call their witnesses, then it’s America’s turn!!!

  4. The Democrats had the opportunity to bring in all of the witnesses that they wanted during the Impeachment hearings. Truth be known, the only FACT witness that they brought in, Ambassador Sondland, provided exculpatory testimony in favor of the President. That being said, they then voted for impeachment along party lines. Now they are “demanding” witness for the Impeachment Trial. It’s not the Republicans job to do the investigation that should have been done at the impeachment hearing level. As such, hopefully, the Republicans review the impeachment evidence and then decide if it merits going forward or not. If it goes forward, they would only be required to hear the testimony of the fact witnesses that provided first hand knowledge at the impeachment hearing. If they decide that the evidence doesn’t give rise to a trial, they can vote to dismiss.

  5. I just hope more delusional and uneducated democrats can see who are the real culprits here, our President is the most vetted individual on earth, for years they had haters looking into trump to try and pin anything on him and they couldn’t even fabricate a crime infact they accused trump of what they themselves have done. Liberals just don’t care or are to stupid to see the truth. I am neither a republican, Democrats, independent, iam just voting TRUMP.. TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP…

  6. Pelosi is like the MamaBear who protects her children. Her son (Paul) is involved with Ukraine and this is why she wants Trump out of the White House b/c she is scared.

  7. If the CHARGES??? are in, then why a fishing expedition.
    Either the facts show or do not show impeachable offense. If the dumb wanted him impeached, they should have done their job. That tells me they should be fired. The fact that they started to Impeach Trump even before he was inaugurated says what they did was to overthrow the legally elected government. That is treason and sedition fir that they should be arrested and tried. Because of other efforts to deny a second amendment right suggests an attempt to foster insurrection! That needs investigating!
    The fact that democrats willingly gave $150 billion to Iran a terrorist government and refuse to support a protective wall ($5 billion) for a border fence shows with the other items that democrats fail to police their leadership and we the people should remove every democrat from office in the next few/dozen elections at federal, state, and local levels of government when we go to the polls. This people is not our parents and grandparents democratic party. Your leadership is not what they stood for. The MSM and the DNC has been bought and paid for by people with big money and ideas that are not what most of you believe. To Christians understand that as Satan! I know this because I know and have family who reject what is going on!

    1. Stephen , what really is disturbing about all of this is the democrat voters that are everyday American’s and are much better off with Trump being the president than they were under Obama and Biden. It does not matter for Pelosi and her gang of power hungry wealthy democrat politicians because they have enough money to withstand an economic downturn, but just why can’t the democrat voters just say we are better off now weather they like Trump or not and say it’s all about the job performance not the personality or some dumb ass political party weather it be democrat or republican. What will they tell their children when their college money is lost because the stock market starts to take a downturn and jobs become scarce again . I guess the democrat voters will need to look their children in the eye and say that someday you will understand that it is more important to hate Trump than to have a lob and food on the table.

  8. It’s all been a total lie and a farce. The Dems didn’t like Trump from day one and have spent all this time and money trying to get rid of him.

  9. Unfortunately, wisdom does not improve with age. Both Pelosi and Schmumer are the results of lazy voting by people who do not measure accomplishments but only vote a familiar name. Just check their records against those of the President. What he has done far outweighs the havoc they seek to impose on the country.
    The height of embarrassment was Pelosi seeking support for her cause. If it was warranted, she would not have had to ask. It is past time for we “busy” voters to stop accepting bs from past lawmakers who are past due for retirement and not really relevant politicians. There should be mandatory measures for both accomplishments and age!

    1. So right Julie because i think the crop of politicians out there lead Americans to be afraid to elect anyone new just because they are afraid the new guy will be worse than the old guy so they just keep voting these people back in office even though they have not done anything to warrant them keeping their jobs. Instead of celebrating America’s successes under Trump they want to go back to our loosing ways no matter what the consequences are to every day American’s . If they don’t want to help make our country better they should at least sit back and collect the pay that they do not earn and get out of the way of prosperity .

  10. Can you imagine for one minute our country being turned over to corrupt liar Adam Schiff, brain dead Nancy Pelosi and sleepy Nadler , It looks like tails of the crypt up there , pelosi and nadler should be sitting home in their rocking chairs together discussing what color the next blanket they knit should be and a liar like Schiff should be impeached and tossed in jail. When the hearing was in the house they did not want to hear from any of Trump’s witnesses so they held secret sessions in the basement and now they want fairness . Too late you lying do nothing democrats because you have already cheapened the meaning of fairness by your behavior.

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