If Adam Schiff were a prosecutor, his November 5 contribution to USA Today would violate rule 3.8(f) when he claimed (again) that he had secret evidence of a secret crime committed by the president. Our system of due process (as codified by this rule) recognizes that it’s unfair for an accuser to use newspapers to claim access to secret evidence of a target’s criminal conduct. This isn’t something that was allowed to happen in past impeachment efforts and Americans should be skeptical of Schiff’s case when he’s not giving the president’s team equal access to the evidence of the supposed “crime.”
Schiff’s piece efficiently proceeds to deception in just the second sentence: “Americans read for themselves how President Zelensky sought more weapons critical to Ukraine’s defense, and how President Trump responded: ‘I would like you to do us a favor though’ and laid bare his abuse of the power of the presidency.” As Rush Limbaugh might say, “Stop the tape!” Let’s take up Schiff on his request to read the transcript for ourselves.
The full context of the line reads as follows, “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people . . . The server, they say Ukraine has it.” The word “favor” is the 619th word in the publicly-available transcript of the call between the Ukrainian president. The “server” in question refers to the source of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. “Crowdstrike” refers to the firm Clinton hired to say the Russians were behind the hacking. Neither has anything to do with the 2020 election, Joe Biden, or his son Hunter. Biden’s son is first mentioned at word 1,172. Trump can be seen expressing regret that Joe Biden ordered a Ukrainian prosecutor to be fired.
Schiff writes, “From the call record alone, we have stark evidence that President Trump sought Ukraine’s help in the 2020 election by pressing that country to investigate a political opponent.” We have nothing of the sort. But maybe the secret evidence will bear greater fruit. “From closed-door interviews of current and former administration officials, text messages we have obtained, . . . we now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to . . . benefit Donald Trump’s personal and political interests.” Obviously, nobody can question Schiff’s assessment of the secret evidence. But that’s the point of the secrecy.
Schiff then pivots to argue that the real impeachable offense is that the president supposedly conditioned military aid, “on Ukraine’s willingness to launch and publicly announce sham political investigations to discredit the unanimous conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.” Even if the transcript did show that, which it doesn’t, how is that an impeachable offense? So now anyone who attempts to “discredit” a “unanimous conclusion” is guilty of a crime? The “Russia hacked the election” conclusion was so corrupted by politics that there remain many unanswered questions about the hypothesis. It shouldn’t be a crime to ask those questions.
Schiff also warned that the president “subverted” U.S. foreign policy for his “political” interests. Hold on. The Constitution places the responsibility for foreign policy with the president precisely because he’s accountable to the voters. His “political interests,” are to satisfy the voters that he’s the better choice than his opponent in 2020. Schiff is free to make the case to the voters that the president’s foreign policy is unwise. He’s not free to criminalize the constitutional exercise of that foreign policy by the elected president.
Schiff vigorously opposes any investigation into Ukraine-originated foreign interference in the 2016 election because, let’s be honest, that investigation will lead back to Democrats.
The Ukraine farce is a double farce. What Schiff said happened didn’t happen. But even if the president had asked a foreign leader to cooperate in a long-overdue investigation into the Biden/Ukraine shenanigans, that request would have been a proper exercise of the president’s constitutional duty to enforce and uphold the law.
The president can take solace in one starkly-apparent fact: Adam Schiff can’t win a fair fight. Contrary to the Nixon and Clinton precedents, Schiff has excluded the president’s legal team from participating in the Star Chamber proceedings so he can cherry-pick witness testimony to leak and try the case in the press. The reason is obvious.
Schiff wants to build political momentum using his allies in the press before the facts receive proper scrutiny. In a fair process, the chairman would not be summarizing secret evidence to the press without any opportunity for the president to rebut the public smear with equal access to the evidence.
One final prediction. This Ukraine farce will end the way all supposed Trump scandals end: with Democrats finding “evidence” of another scandal. Perhaps this explains why the House resolution retroactively endorsing the “impeachment inquiry” doesn’t actually establish a crime to be investigated or a scope for the investigation. This retains the flexibility for the House to switch horses the next time the president draws on a weather map or offers to host an international conference for free.