The Trump impeachment, which got rolling Tuesday, failed to come alive until about two hours into the proceedings, when suddenly, one of the President’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, wheeled on the culprit who’s really on trial — the Democrats. Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Schiff, and their whole camarilla, they launched this proceeding and levied the charges and they are the only ones who are required to prove anything.
This is something to bear in mind as this drama unfolds. No one in America ever has to prove his or her innocence, not even the President (he may not lurk above the law, but neither is he pilloried below it). It is the part of due process that all persons, even our presidents, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. So the burden is on entirely the Democrats, a point that turns out to be central to the President’s strategy.
“What are we dealing with here? Why are we here?” demanded Mr. Sekulow. “Are we here because of a phone call?” he asked, in reference to President Trump’s telephone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine, which supposedly triggered the poison pen letter from the whistleblower. “Or are we here, before this great body, because since the President was sworn into office, there was a desire to see him removed?”
We understand that infuriates the Democrats. One of the lead managers from the House, Congressman Schiff, would mock Mr. Sekulow and his colleagues for failing to address the particulars of the charges the House has handed up. We don’t mind saying, though, that Mr. Sekulow’s broader point resonates for us and, we suspect, millions of Americans who have watched this drama since before Mr. Trump acceded.
So, for the record, does the fight over the refusal of the House to seek through proper court proceedings evidence and testimony they now are asking the Senate to pursue. This was deftly handled by the White House counsel Pat Cipollone. He walked the Senate through the travail of the deputy National Security adviser who, seeking guidance from a judge, got a court date only to have the House drop its subpoena.
That the House refused to seek to enforce its subpoenas because Mr. Trump represents such an urgent threat doesn’t ring true. What rings true is that in the subpoena fight, the House was fearful of losing in court. The House is scared of up-and-coming judges like Neomi Rao, who rides circuit in the Columbia District and who, dissenting, reckoned Congress can’t use its legislative power to go after Mr. Trump’s tax returns.
The fact is that the House knows it’s on the spot. Mr. Sekulow quoted Mrs. Pelosi’s horrifying declaration, “We cannot be at the mercy of the courts.” It is the Democrats who fear the law. The House knows that a purely partisan prosecution, as was mentioned so forcefully in President Clinton’s trial, itself creates doubt. What we saw in Tuesday was doubt being created with each of Senator Schumer’s motions being put to a purely partisan vote.
Which is part of what Mr. Sekulow was talking about when he asked “Why are we here?” Our guess is that millions of Americans suddenly started paying attention. They know that this is not about Mr. Trump’s phone call with Ukraine. It’s not about his stonewalling of Congress. It’s about the long train of powder the Democrats have been trying to light since Hillary Clinton failed to go to Wisconsin and the states made Donald Trump president.