Tags: congress | impeachment | trump | witnesses

Are the House Democrats Un-American?

Are the House Democrats Un-American?
U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to reporters following a closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees at the U.S. Capitol on November 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Monday, 11 November 2019 04:06 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The current House majority has put in place procedures for its impeachment investigation of President Trump that put the decision whether to call witnesses entirely at the discretion of the Democrats.

The Republican minority can propose witnesses, but they are subject to a veto by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.

If Schiff refuses to permit a witness, Republicans can appeal that decision to the full committee, but the full committee has a majority of Democrats, and that majority will almost certainly affirm the decision of its chairman.

The Republicans have submitted a list of witnesses, including the so-called Whistleblower and Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joseph Biden. It is widely expected that both of these witnesses will be rejected by the Democrats.

On the Democrats’ theory, Hunter Biden and the Whistleblower are irrelevant to the proceedings, because as far as the Democrats are concerned, the facts regarding what President Trump did are now clear. According to their narrative, Mr. Trump demanded that the president of the Ukraine agree to an investigation of the Bidens, and, in particular, the younger Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian natural gas company, before the Trump administration would release previously earmarked military aid for the Ukraine.

For the Democrats, and their witnesses, this amounts to wrongful use of the power of the United States government to enlist a foreign power in digging up dirt on a political enemy of Mr. Trump, since Hunter’s father is a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Democrats see this as an impeachable offense, amounting to something as serious as “treason or bribery” since, for them, instead of acting in the interests of the United States, President Trump acted from purely personal and corrupt political motives.

The president, however, and his Republican defenders, see it differently. Their narrative is that the president was not acting from personal political motives, but, rather, was engaged in a good faith effort to root out corruption both here and in the Ukraine, which, until the new Ukraine President assumed office, was well-known as a suspect oligarchy, a veritable Eastern European swamp of corruption.

For the Republicans, the fact that Hunter Biden was given what amounted to a sinecure, where he would collect at least $50,000 a month for service on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, run by a Ukrainian oligarch, at a time when Hunter’s father was in charge of U.S. Policy toward the Ukraine, is a fit subject for further investigation. The additional fact that the younger Biden had similarly suspect lucrative arrangements with other countries, particularly China, similarly suggests wrongdoing, and explains President Trump’s defenders’ interest in Hunter as a witness.

To this day, Joe Biden purports to see nothing wrong with his son’s activities, and points to the fact that Hunter probably did nothing illegal. The former Vice President may be correct about that, but the fact that something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right, and doesn’t mean that it’s not corrupt, and doesn’t mean that it is not a worthy subject of investigation.

These impeachment proceedings are actually a vital opportunity to explore what kind of a federal government we want.

Is it one in which the families of politicians grow fabulously wealthy as a result of their access to influence, power, and federal funds (as the Clintons, for example did, and as the Bidens now appear to have also), or is it one in which the excesses of the federal government and those who feed at its trough are exposed and these pernicious practices terminated?

Mr. Trump’s narrative, and that of his supporters, is of a piece with his campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” to reduce the size of the federal leviathan, and to return power to the states and localities and to the American people themselves.

It is not in the partisan political interests of the Democrats to further that Trumpian narrative, nor is it in their interests to expose what the Republicans believe to be the obvious corruption of the Bidens. This is what explains the exercise of what amounts to absolute Democrat partisan political control over the proceedings.

The exercise of absolute political power is, of course, what leads to corruption in the first place. Indeed, if there is one clear theme that emerges from the Constitutional Convention in the late eighteenth century, it is that the structure of the document, with its checks and balances, and with its dispersion of power between the federal and state governments, is a structure designed to prevent arbitrary power.

What the Democrats are doing betrays that fundamental American principle.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The current House majority has put in place procedures for its impeachment investigation of President Trump that put the decision whether to call witnesses entirely at the discretion of the Democrats.
congress, impeachment, trump, witnesses
897
2019-06-11
Monday, 11 November 2019 04:06 PM
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