By: Arnie J. Olsen October 23, 2019
So, I took one for the team last night and watched a full hour of Sean Hannity. (And yes, I am OK for anyone who is worried about me.) Given the testimony of Bill Taylor yesterday, and how bad it made Trump look in this whole Ukraine thing, I really wanted to hear how it was going to be reported by Trump’s biggest fan.
To sum it up, he referenced all of his “high level sources” (many of them, although all remained unnamed) as saying how the depositions are blowing up in the Democrats faces, as one after another is clearly showing that Trump did nothing wrong. He also, continued to drop talking point after talking point about how this whole impeachment inquiry is “unconstitutional”, a “witch hunt”, a “lynching”, and totally violates the President’s right of “Due Process”, deprives him of being able to “confront his accusers” (as even people getting a parking ticket are allowed to do), how Republicans are not even allowed to call witnesses, or ask questions, or even get a copy of the transcript. He continued to say over and over how this is totally unprecedented and unlike when Clinton was impeached and Newt Gingrich ran those hearings out in the open just like Democrats had done during Watergate. He talked about how Trump is not being allowed to defend himself, nor have his attorney present. He continually referred back to the transcript of the Ukraine call and how the President had done nothing wrong, so there was no point to any of this, because just like the Mueller report that “completely exonerated the President”, all of these depositions were doing the same thing. And of course, he repeated Trump’s name calling of Adam Schiff, “Shifty Schiff”, “Lying Schiff”, etc. He followed that up with guests including Newt Gingrich, Lindsay Graham and Devin Nunes all giving their takes, along with his usual guests like “journalist” Sarah Carter, Former FBI agent Dan Bongino, and of course, Geraldo Rivera. And he closed the show with a monologue attacking Mitt Romney for not being a loyal “friend” after they had all gone above and beyond to support him back in 2012.
You get the idea.
Anyway, the reason why I ultimately watched this was because knowing that most of Trump’s supporters rely on this as their single source of “news”, I wanted to get a sense of what story line they were being fed. Even if they read/listen to “a wide range of sources”, as they often claim, I noticed the same general story is being repeated by Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, the Five, Rush Limbaugh, Jim Jordan, Adam Gaetz, Steve Scalise, Devin Nunes, Lindsay Graham, and on down the line.
With all of that said, I wanted to provide something of a clarification on the realities of these talking points for the few remaining Trump supporting friends I have on here, and would suggest maybe the rest of you share this and maybe a few of your friends will at least hear a few facts they will not get from their usual “news” sources.
The main thing people need to understand is that this is a process. What we are seeing is not a trial, but rather the first step in a traditional legal process. Comparisons being made to the Watergate hearings or the Clinton impeachment are false equivalencies at this stage of the process. Both of those situations were ultimately broadcast on television, for all of the public to see and both parties could call whatever witnesses they wanted, and ask whatever questions they wanted, and the subject of the hearings, the President, will be afforded all of the time he wants to defend himself. THIS process is not at that stage yet. There is one major difference with the current situation that is forcing this somewhat different step in the process compared with other recent impeachments, and that is the DOJ is not involved. In those previous situations, either the DOJ, via the FBI, or a Special Prosecutor (Ken Starr) were the ones conducting the investigation prior to open hearings being held. In this current situation, the DOJ is not only unwilling to conduct a proper investigation, they are likely implicated as complicit in this situation thanks to AG Barr’s direct involvement. Because of this, the three committees involved in the impeachment inquiry (Oversight, Intelligence and Judiciary) are handling the investigation part of the inquiry directly. THAT is what this is.
As I assume most of you know, during any real investigation, much if not all of it is done in secret for a variety of practical reasons. This is not abnormal, illegal or unconstitutional. It is done because allowing witnesses to know what the witness before them said allows for the them to potentially coordinate their stories. Also, the target of the investigation in NEVER given the opportunity to confront their accusers, nor any witness for that matter. Often, they don’t even realize they are being investigated, and the investigators are under no obligation to inform them. So, anyway, another major point people need to understand is that THIS is the investigation phase.
Another talking point is that this is illegal because it was not brought to the full House for a floor vote. Again, not true. Any one of the committees in the House can decide to investigate anything they want within their jurisdiction and within their constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. Since the majority party within the House also holds the chairmanship and the majority on every committee, they can do what they want without minority party approval or permission. It is EXACTLY the same way every House investigation from Benghazi to Fast and Furious played out when the GOP was in control and Democrats were along for the ride. There will come a time in the process that this will be brought to the full House membership for a floor vote, but we simply are not there yet. This is just the investigation stage.
Today, if you were watching the news, a group of Republicans did crash the deposition of a Department of Defense analyst/expert on Ukraine and delayed it by 5 or 6 hours. They were doing this, allegedly, because as Hannity reports, Republicans are not allowed into these “secret meetings”. That is flatly untrue. The Republicans who are ACTUALLY members of the committees conducting the investigations are not only allowed into the depositions, but they are also allowed to ask all of the questions they want while they are going on to make sure that any point they want is included in the official transcripts. The ones who are not allowed into the depositions are the ones who are not assigned to one of the three committees involved, just like no Democrat, other than those assigned to the committees are allowed to participate, and when it comes to which Republicans are allowed in, that was 100% determined by GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when he made the committee assignments back in January of this year, so if Matt Gaetz for example has an issue with that…there is only one person he can fault for it, and it’s not the Democrats. For that matter, there were some Republicans who have gone on news shows or on camera and said flat out they were not allowed in, when they actually sit on the committee in question and have been there the whole time. In other words, THEY ARE LYING when they say they are not allowed in…Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes…they are there every step of the way. The only thing they are not allowed to do at this stage is call their own witnesses because they do not have the votes to do so, but there will be plenty of opportunity to do that at several stages down the line.
Now, once this investigation stage is completed, the three committees will determine if there has been enough evidence heard to warrant drafting Articles of Impeachment (effectively the “indictments”). The Democrats, because of their majority on each committee can determine on their own if they want to do this, but they will need to have the evidence to back them up, and will need to present all of it to the full committee again. There will be more hearings conducted, most likely in view of the public, and these same witnesses will likely be called again. This stage is effectively like the Grand Jury process in our criminal justice system. At this stage, the target of the investigation is still not given a say, or the ability to defend themselves, though they may be given the ability to testify to the “prosecutors”. During any grand jury hearings, it is 100% run by prosecutors, and it is up to them to convince the grand jury to “indict”. The only real thing that is different from a typical grand jury proceeding is that in this case, the committee members serve as both the “prosecutors” AND “grand jury members”. While this may seem unfair, given the two parties and their positons on the issue, it is actually a benefit to the target (Trump) because unlike in a normal grand jury proceeding, Trump will actually have people loyal to him involved and working to discredit witnesses, refute evidence, or whatever. In a normal grand jury proceeding, this is NEVER allowed.
Also, if the target of the investigation is given the opportunity to testify, they do not get the benefit of legal representation (at least they do not in a normal grand jury proceeding), though they may choose to plead the 5th and not incriminate themselves. Once all of the testimony has been heard and all evidence has been presented, the Committee involved will call a vote of all committee members on whether to approve each Article of Impeachment drafted and if they pass, they will be moved along to the full House for a floor vote.
Finally, there WILL be a vote of the full House membership, the one Republicans are crying for now, and the one they say they are not being given now. You couldn’t possibly have a full floor vote before this point because there is nothing to vote on until we get to this point. Currently, the evidence is not compiled, and there are no charges/Articles of Impeachment drafted yet, so what is the House supposed to vote on?
Once all of this happens, and assuming that one or more Articles of Impeachment pass the House, the President, and potentially the Vice President will have been effectively “indicted” and the case will pass on to the Senate for a trial. Once that happens, it will be conducted like a normal jury trial, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding and the jury consisting of the 100 sitting Senators. Someone, obviously the Democrats, will act as prosecutors and present their case to the “jury”, and the President (and any other defendants) , along with their legal team will be allowed to mount the best defense possible. They may take the stand themselves if they choose to testify under oath, or if called by the Democrats, they can take the 5th and not say anything to incriminate themselves. It is entirely up to them how they choose to best defend themselves…they can call their own witnesses, they can cross examine the prosecutors’ witnesses, present evidence, or anything else…or like Nixon did, they may decide that the evidence is so overwhelming that they would rather resign than face the forcible removal that may be forthcoming and negotiate a departure that keeps them out of prison (if the acts they are being impeached for are actually criminal as well). That is what happened with Nixon. He resigned and was pardoned by his replacement so he was out of legal jeopardy and could just go home.
The bottom line to all of this is that this is not some crazy witch hunt, it is not illegal, and there is nothing unfair about the process. This is just what the process is, and anyone who is presenting it as any of the above is straight up lying to you and trying to keep you thinking the President is being illegally or otherwise improperly being railroaded. Do yourself, and more importantly, our country, a favor and do NOT fall for the hype, and do NOT allow yourself to be distracted from the facts of the case. The facts will all come out, and you will be given your chance to decide on what they all mean. Anything else, prior to that is just spin, just rhetoric and it means nothing. It is all just designed to get the public thinking about everything EXCEPT the facts of the case because ultimately public perception is possibly the biggest driver in whether the President gets removed or not and right now, Sean Hannity (and others like him) are doing anything and everything possible to keep as many voters on the side of the President as possible because that is EXACTLY what guys like him are paid to do. Don’t fall for the hype, don’t believe other people’s interpretation of the evidence, just listen to the ACTUAL evidence as it becomes available and decide then.
And for my own “spin”, I will just leave you with this…if you believe Trump is innocent of all charges and the Democrats are just out to get him because they can’t get over Hillary losing or for whatever other reason they may have, then maybe you ought to voice your opinion and demand that people show up to testify. Demand the President testify under oath. Demand that every document that is requested is provided. In your everyday life, whether it is trying to figure out which kid broke the vase in your house or figuring out which employee stole the post it notes, you would not defend someone or believe they were innocent when they refuse to answer any questions, refuse to provide potential evidence and even block anyone else that was involved in the situation from answering questions. You KNOW you would not. In the case of Trump, if ANY evidence actually proved his innocence, as opposed to his guilt, don’t you think he would be burning a path in the Oval Office carpeting to get it to the public and the people deciding whether he is guilty or not? And at any point, whether the Mueller investigation to the current impeachment inquiry has he done that? Today, in fact, the Trump legal team was in Federal Appellate Court to fight a District Court ruling that forced him to provide his tax returns, arguing literally, that a sitting President may not be investigated, questioned, charged, tried, convicted or incarcerated for ANY activity they may have participated in, regardless of legality, either before they were President or while they are serving as President, and that no one they have ever been involved with may be questioned or have the things they participated in with the President investigated. They are literally arguing that everything in the President’s life is completely above the law? Does that sound like the defense of an innocent man? The District Court called BS on that. The Appellate Court sounded skeptical of Trump’s argument, and even suggested that the case was likely heading to the Supreme Court which seems to indicate that they are going to rule against Trump as well. Who do you know that would fight the disclosure of something like a tax return all the way to the Supreme Court if there was nothing illegal about it?
Or, if you disagree with everything I am saying you just might be one of those people Trump referred to when he claimed he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose a vote, and if so, to quote Bill Engvall…”Here’s Your Sign!”.