In 1985, Sol Wachtler, who was then the chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, told The New York Daily News that district attorneys have so much influence on grand juries that “by and large” they could get them to “indict a ham sandwich.” It certainly appears now that congressional Democrats feel they have so much power that they can impeach a ham sandwich if they so choose.
On Friday, December 13, the House Judiciary Committee passed the two articles of impeachment along party lines, 23-17. The full House is now expected to vote next week on the articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Outrageous Claims and Assumptions
During the December 12 committee impeachment debate, Democrats pressed their arguments for impeaching President Donald Trump by, in effect, making the following points: Article I of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the “sole power of impeachment.” Therefore, the majority party, and no one else, gets to decide what constitutes evidence and what constitutes fact. Additionally, the majority party gets to decide what documents the executive branch hands over and which officials from that branch must testify to Congress.
It certainly appears that Democrats do not respect the idea of co-equal branches of government and contend that the executive can only exercise that authority granted to it by the legislative. This is quite the opposite from the Obama years, when Trump’s predecessor made law by executive order as his administration refused to co-operate with congressional oversight.
Further, Democrats on the committee asserted that proof of criminal acts is not needed in order to impeach a president. They also continued to claim that Trump’s transgression was inviting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 U.S. election – to benefit Trump himself, of course.
There is no proof that the president sought anything from Ukraine that would affect the 2020 election. The allegation lies at the very heart of the impeachment effort and is also the biggest weakness in the Democrats’ case. Trump’s motives for suggesting the Ukrainian president look into the Biden-Burisma affair are being assumed, without a single piece of evidence.
As if the preceding claims were not laughable enough, the president’s opponents on the committee also implied that Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, must have been lying when he claimed – publicly and on more than one occasion – that he did not feel he had been put under pressure by Trump to open any investigations.
Most despicably, though, a couple of Democrats – including failed presidential candidate Eric Swalwell (D-CA) – claimed that Ukrainian soldiers were killed because Trump put a hold on military assistance to that country. Russia invaded Ukraine on Barack Obama’s watch, and the former president did nothing about it; he refused to provide Ukraine with weaponry for its own defense. Since then, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been killed. Attributing any of those deaths directly to any action by President Trump was the lowest point to which Democrats have sunk – and that, in itself, was quite an achievement.
Facts Are Subjective?
Ironically, several Democrats, when recognized to speak, began their remarks with various statements along the lines of “Let’s go back to the facts,” or “I want to reset the facts.” In reality, they had none. The “facts” to which they were referring came from witness testimony, but none of those witnesses provided direct, first-hand evidence to support Democrat allegations. Every official or former official who testified provided only assumptions or accounts of what he or she had heard from other people.
Several hours into the marathon debate – which began at around 9 a.m. and wrapped up after 11 p.m. – Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) began reading from the House Intelligence Committee report on its impeachment inquiry. That report was written entirely by the majority party – by the staff of Democrats on the committee. It was a report on the conclusions reached by Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA). Cicilline, as he read what were, in effect, Schiff’s words, insisted several times that he was reading a “statement of fact.”
For their part, Republicans pointed out the absence of facts, and, by the time the committee was four hours into the debate, members on both sides were simply recycling the same talking points their respective sides have been repeating since the impeachment inquiry began.
The die is now cast, and the president is likely to be impeached on both counts, setting up a Senate trial. At that point, Republicans take control of the process and may choose to use the opportunity to punish Democrats, as some GOP House members have suggested – or they could decide to keep the trial brief, with no witnesses, and speedily acquit the president. How many House Democrats will take the plunge and vote to impeach Trump may have a significant effect on the 2020 congressional elections.
Read more from Graham J Noble.