Logic and Law Favor A Short Trial In the Senate
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As the impeachment battle moves to the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is wisely holding the line against Democratic efforts to drag it out. The minority leader, Charles Schumer, is demanding that Democrats be able to call new witnesses. He insists an impeachment trial has to “pass the fairness test.”
Fairness? He must think Americans are fools.
House Democrats rushed to impeach President Trump without evidence he committed a crime. They concocted two phony charges, “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” Then they rigged the House hearings to exclude testimony from the whistleblower, whose complaint was the pretext for impeachment, and bar witnesses requested by Republicans. How fair is that?
Mr. Schumer’s insistence on more witnesses — in addition to the 17 already grilled in the House — is a ploy to boost the House Democrats’ pathetic case. Get ready for more demands for witnesses and investigations.
No wonder Senator McConnell is telling Mr. Schumer to pound salt. The public is fed up. Polls show independent and swing-state voters increasingly oppose impeachment. Ending it quickly will allow Congress to get back to serious problems instead of this invented crisis.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, is proposing a brief Senate trial, with no witnesses. “Here’s what I want to avoid,” said Graham, “this thing going on longer than it needs to.”
House Democrats will rehash their feeble case to the 100 senators who serve as jurors. After the White House legal team rebuts, the Senate will deliberate and vote. It could all be done by mid-January. Better yet, start immediately, and have it done before Christmas.
Under the Senate’s longstanding impeachment rules, the trial format doesn’t require witnesses. Mr. Schumer falsely claims no witnesses means a coverup. He needs to read the rules.
Predictably, many Republicans seething over unfair House proceedings want witnesses. They’re salivating to put the Bidens, the whistleblower, and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, on the hot seat. Avoiding a battle over witnesses, though, will allow the Senate to focus on the more important issue — the Democrats’ preposterous grounds for impeachment.
Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of “abuse of power,” a vague charge. They argue that a president can be impeached despite acting legally and that the test is whether he’s motivated by “private self-interest” or the national interest.
That’s a trap. Who’s to say what’s in the national interest? Republicans and Democrats always disagree about that. That’s why we have elections.
House Democrats also charge Mr. Trump with “obstruction of Congress” for refusing to surrender documents and release advisors to testify. That’s another made-up charge. Mr. Trump was prepared to let the courts decide what he has to release. Last week’s Supreme Court decision to review executive-branch subpoenas shows Mr. Trump’s approach is correct. House Dems are rushing to impeach, instead.
The Senate’s task is to give Mr. Trump a fair hearing but also discredit Democrats’ phony grounds for impeachment. Otherwise, every future president will have to kowtow to the House majority.
Forgoing witnesses doesn’t mean the public has to be cheated out of uncovering the truth about possible Ukrainian election meddling, Mr. Schiff’s link to the whistleblower, or the Bidens’ corruption.
Democrats charge Mr. Trump with promoting a “discredited theory” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. What’s the harm in investigating, as United States Attorney John Durham is currently doing?
The Senate must also probe Mr. Schiff’s role in engineering the whistleblower complaint. Mr. Schiff’s staff met with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed. Mr. Schiff lied about that until the New York Times caught him. He also refused to surrender documents about his possible dealings with the whistleblower to House investigators.
As for Hunter Biden’s lucrative position with a Ukrainian company while his father was President Obama’s point person for Ukraine, Vice President Biden himself admits that “may have looked bad.”
It’s possible to end the impeachment frenzy and still get to the bottom of these wrongs. Meanwhile, President Trump leads all his Democratic 2020 rivals in the latest USAToday/Suffolk University poll, indicating what the public thinks of impeachment.
Ms. McCaughey, a scholar of constitutional law, is a former lieutenant governor of New York; this column first appeared in the New York Post.