For weeks, House Democrats have put the nation through a painfully partisan and public “impeachment inquiry.” In doing so, they have elicited testimony from a variety of witnesses.
While House Democrats control the process during the impeachment inquiry phase, Republicans will control the process in any eventual trial in the Senate. If, and when, that happens, Democrats could have a very tough time proving that the president committed an impeachable offense.
Knowing that, House Democrats are seemingly trying to “prosecute” the president (lay out their case) without the legal barriers and rules that Republicans will most likely invoke in a subsequent trial.
As such, Senate Republicans shouldn’t be fooled, and subsequently swayed, by the current charade in the House, much of which would be inadmissible or easily refuted in a subsequent impeachment trial.
Presumptions and Guesswork
From the start, much of the public testimony has consisted of second- and third-hand information, hearsay, or baseless assumptions or beliefs. However, several witnesses also had first-hand knowledge of the telephone call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president.
For example, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testified that there was no evidence of a quid pro quo or bribery. Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy aide to Vice President Mike Pence who was on the July call, also was unaware of any conditions placed on foreign aid.
In addition to these witnesses, House Democrats heard from one of their “star” witnesses, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, on Nov. 20. Sondland initially testified in his opening statement about an alleged quid pro quo “arrangement” between the president/president’s attorney and Ukraine, stating:
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
However, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) pointed out, Sondland later changed his tune, stating, “I’ve never heard from President Trump that the aid was conditioned on an announcement” of investigations.
Sondland doubled down on this concession during questioning by Republican counsel Steve Castor:
Steve Castor: “The president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?”
Gordon Sondland: “No.”
Castor: “The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting?”
Sondland: “Personally, no.”
Additionally, Sondland admitted that his initial testimony about the existence of a quid pro quo “arrangement” was based on his “presumptions,” as opposed to any direct evidence.
During his testimony, he also confirmed that the president personally told him, “I want nothing, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo,” which was consistent with his prior deposition testimony, in which he said Trump told him, “I want nothing. I don’t want to give them anything and I don’t want anything from them.”
Testimony that is based on one’s beliefs or assumptions is oftentimes unreliable and wrong. In Sondland’s case, his “guesswork” was easily refuted and debunked. Specifically, during cross-examination, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Sondland had the following exchange:
Rep. Mike Turner: “If you pull up CNN today, right now, their banner says “Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid.” Is that your testimony today, Ambassador Sondland? … Because I don’t think you’re saying that.”
Sondland: “I’ve said repeatedly, congressman, I was presuming. …”
Turner: “So no one heard. Not just the president. Giuliani didn’t tell you. Mulvaney didn’t tell you. Nobody. Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?”
Sondland: “I think I already testified.”
Turner: “No, answer the question. … No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigation? Because if your answer is yes, then the chairman is wrong. And the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?”
Turner: “So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.”
Sondland: “Other than my own presumption.”
Sondland’s conclusion that the president engaged in a quid pro quo based on his personal presumption means very little, as it was unsubstantiated. As such, it wasn’t a bombshell in favor of the Democrats. Rather, it served to further destroy their narrative.
While the current inquiry isn’t governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a subsequent trial in the Senate most certainly will be. Therefore, hearsay (which many of the witnesses in this inquiry have relied on) will be excluded unless it falls under one of the various exceptions.
Moreover, testimony that is based on someone’s beliefs or assumptions will either be deemed inadmissible or easily refuted.
Finally, while House Democrats have prohibited Republicans from calling or questioning the whistleblower and other witnesses who could help the president, the “rules” of the game could dramatically change in the Senate (some issues could eventually require judicial intervention).
The potential hurdles in a subsequent impeachment trial are glaringly obvious and aren’t easily overcome. While House Democrats undoubtedly know that, they’re likely hoping that the public testimony by the various witnesses is compelling enough to “convince” the American public and enough Republican senators to support impeachment.
Republican senators must not fall victim to the current one-sided and partisan show that House Democrats are putting on. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the other House Democrats are attempting to “prosecute” an allegedly impeachable offense during the inquiry phase, because the trial phase will come with a different set of rules that could pose significant challenges for the Democrats.
Republicans in the House and Senate must continue to resist this attempted coup and force the Democrats to prove their alleged case. To date, they have failed miserably.
Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Algemeiner, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.