The House Judiciary Committee will, on Monday, December 9, convene its second hearing as Democrats race to get articles of impeachment to the floor of the chamber before the Christmas recess. The White House was given until 5 p.m. Eastern on November 6 to notify committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) whether the president or his representatives planned to participate in future hearings or not. It is, perhaps, a mark of how little regard the White House has for the Democrats’ impeachment circus that Pat Cipollone, counsel for President Donald Trump, penned just two paragraphs in answer to that invitation.
“As you know,” Cipollone’s brief and pointed letter to Nadler began, “your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness.”
The second of the two dismissive paragraphs of the counsel’s letter commenced with a most obvious statement: “House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.” Cipollone is spot on, here. The only purpose more hearings serve is the attempted swaying of public opinion.
No new facts, at this point, will be revealed. The Intelligence Committee dredged up every serving or former government official it could find and the story of the president’s dealings with Ukraine has been told from every angle. The so-called fact witnesses who appeared at various hearings revealed a great many incriminating assumptions but no incriminating facts.
It now appears that everyone on the Democrat side – and perhaps everyone on the Republican side, too – has grown somewhat weary of the entire affair and wants to wrap it up. Even President Trump himself tweeted: “If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.” Cipollone even quoted this tweet in his letter to the committee.
Of course, Nadler has not yet made the most of his moment in the spotlight – or, more importantly for him, in front of the TV cameras. He was practically sidelined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), despite being the chairman of the committee that is supposed to handle impeachment investigations. Instead, Intelligence Committee leader Adam Schiff (D-CA) got to hog the limelight, as he is so fond of doing. Nadler wants his piece of the action now, so the Judiciary Committee will have just a little longer to play Spanish Inquisition until the markup procedure begins; the process of actually writing the articles of impeachment.
In all likelihood, the only reason Pelosi is making the nation endure this farce for another few days is to buy time for her to figure out whether she really does have the votes to impeach the president and for her co-conspirators to decide what, exactly, they plan to impeach the president for (read that as: What the Democrats think will pass muster, in terms of charges against Trump).
Is it a good strategy for the White House to refuse to play ball? Some would argue that it was the wrong move and that, in declining to participate in any future hearing, the president is relinquishing his chance to have his own counsel cross-examine witnesses and to present exculpatory evidence.
This argument is thin, though: While the impeachment effort resides in the House, Democrats still control it. There is little doubt that Nadler would have done his level best to prevent White House counsel asking questions that would have solicited exculpatory answers from any witnesses and he certainly was not about to allow Cipollone to call the witnesses he would have wanted to question.
Assuming that articles of impeachment get to the Senate, the majority Republicans will be running the show and Trump’s defense team will have ample opportunity to make its case. All in all, the entire impeachment endeavor appears to be tilting decidedly in Trump’s favor, and as the old axiom says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
More than anything, of course, participation by the White House in these House hearings would lend the entire affair credibility. Indeed, if Cipollone answered the call and appeared on Capitol Hill any time before a likely Senate trial, one would have to question why the president sent his counsel to participate in a procedure he himself referred to just days ago as “a big, fat hoax.”
Read more from Graham J Noble.