Phew! What a couple weeks it has been. Yet for all the testimony and fanfare, Democrats seem to have little to show for their impeachment effort (all at the taxpayer’s expense, no less). At best, there have been witnesses that gave merely their own perceptions that there was a quid pro quo (or “bribe”). At worst, the democrats have shot themselves in the foot by pushing forward with no real evidence and, in light of this, no support from their Republican counterparts. We’ll get to precisely how this plays out poorly for the Democrats in a minute.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, none of their witnesses provided any actual evidence of explicit directives that would have constituted a bribe. In other words, there is no actual evidence of a quid pro quo. Whoops. This is perhaps best shown in the following line of questioning between Representative Mike Turner of Ohio and the purported “star witness” for Democrats, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, which took place this past Tuesday:
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Mike Turner: “Was there extortion?”
Gordon Sondland: No.
MT: “Was there a bribe?”
MT: “Did you see or hear anyone break any laws?”
MT: “Did anyone ask you to break any laws?”
MT: “Did you ever hear anyone link the investigations with the aid?”
MT: “Did President Trump make any demand of President Zelensky?”
MT: “Do you have any information regarding any criminal activity the President of the United States has been involved with at all?”
MT: “Mr. Sondland, let’s be clear: no one on this planet, not Donald Trump, Rudy Guiliani, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo—no one told you aid was tied to political investigations, is that correct?”
GS: That’s correct.
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Sondland, however, insisted that he “perceived” there to be a quid pro quo. This same theme of perception, rather than actual evidence, permeated and poisoned each of the witnesses’ testimony.
Democrats were well aware of the case they had before they launched the official inquiry, and yet they proceeded anyways. Democrats further knew they would be unable to get all the witnesses they wanted, as the executive branch is largely able to exert privilege over subpoenas that can prevent individuals from testifying. Without getting into the righteousness of that and what others may know, the Democrats knew this fact from the beginning. This made their “evidence” ultimately appear quite weak. It’s not clear if it could have been any better.
As a result, the House hearings seemingly failed to win over any Republicans (and perhaps much of the nation), which virtually dooms an impeachment vote in the Senate. This is where the proceedings are headed next, of course, as the House Democrats had convicted Trump before any of this even began.
Yet this is where the real problems set in for Democrats. While the majority Democrats were able to prevent the minority Republicans from calling their desired witnesses in the House, such will not be the case in the Republican-controlled Senate. And here, without executive privilege to block certain witnesses, Republicans might get a shot at whomever they so please.
Indeed, Republicans look forward to this.
“President Trump wants to have a trial in the Senate because it’s clearly the only chamber where he can expect fairness and receive due process under the Constitution,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
“We would expect to finally hear from witnesses who actually witnessed, and possibly participated in corruption – like Adam Schiff, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the so-called Whistleblower, to name a few,” Gidley said.
In essence, the Democrats pushing forward with a weak case in the House will now give the Senate the ability to completely muddy the waters by calling all the allegedly corrupt Democrats to testify. This exposes risk for Democrats. Had the Democrats merely made their case without an official inquiry, this never would have happened. Of course, launching an official inquiry was requisite for the Democrats at the onset to combat arguments that their closed-door unofficial inquiry was an unfair farce. To wit, this entire impeachment path seems likely to have been a complete mistake to begin with.
This next Senate phase of the impeachment will likely only serve to further unite Republicans, coupled with other failed takedowns of Trump like the Russian collusion investigation. Along with the potential testimony of witnesses like Biden’s son, for whom good judgment seems to be a bit elusive, this may well turn independents (and some Democrats) towards Trump in 2020 rather than whomever the Democrats finally decide upon. Perhaps House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial instincts to hold off on impeachment were right after all.