Even in the Senate, Democrats want to play by House rules.
As the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump opened on Tuesday, Democrats trying to oust a duly elected president showed how hard they’re going to try to use the same kinds of kangaroo court tactics in the upper chamber as they used in the House of Representatives to pass articles of impeachment in the first place.
In a move that likely foreshadows the bare-knuckle fights ahead, the seven House impeachment managers appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Tuesday attacking his role on the Trump defense team while alleging he is a “fact witness” to the events in question.
But Sen. Ted Cruz struck back hard in a Facebook post with an argument few Democrats likely want to face.
Describing the letter as “Democrats’ opening salvo,” the Texas Republican had one question: What do they say about Rep. Adam Schiff?
Schiff, of course, is the California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who played such a key role in getting the articles of impeachment through the House.
Now, he’s one of the managers prosecuting the case in the Senate.
Throughout the hearing process in the House, Schiff’s honesty was doubtful to any unbiased observer — from his literally unbelievable claim that he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower to his clearly disingenuous statements about the contact between the whistleblower and Schiff’s committee before the complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was even filed.
It’s fair to say that behind Pelosi herself, no one in Congress is more responsible for the impeachment trial the country is experiencing than Schiff.
That would make him at least as much of a “material witness” as the White House counsel.
As the White House wrote in the lengthy response it filed Monday to the articles of impeachment, detailing its objections to the House procedures (page 6):
“Chairman Schiff’s hearings were fatally defective for another reason — Schiff himself was instrumental in helping to create the story behind them.”
And yet Schiff is acting as one of the prosecutors in the Senate.
The Democratic letter on Tuesday was an obvious attempt to turn the tables on the White House. But thanks to Cruz, the tables turned right back.
”Democrats’ opening salvo in impeachment: they demand Trump get rid of his lawyer, Pat Cipollone,” Cruz wrote.
“The Sixth Amendment provides the accused the right ‘to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense,’” Cruz wrote. “Note that the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the prosecution; it protects only the accused. Under the standard put forth by the House Democrats today — that any potential fact witness cannot serve as counsel in the impeachment hearing — there is an obvious person who should be disqualified: Adam Schiff.
“Schiff, it has been alleged, spoke directly with the so-called ‘whistle-blower’ and may even have helped him draft the complaint that launched this entire impeachment.
“So, maybe we should disqualify Schiff as a lawyer, and schedule him instead as a witness to explain his role in creating the ‘evidence’ in this proceeding?”
Cruz wasn’t the only one lashing back at the Democrat attack.
Eric Ueland, White House legislative director, told CNN the motives were clear.
“House Democrats are trying to run one of the president’s strongest advocates off the case before it even starts,” he said. “They won’t succeed.”
The House Democrats’ complaints about Cipollone likely stand little chance of flying in the Senate, controlled by Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Democrats have gotten this far in trying to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election only by rigging the process against Trump – from the closed hearings Schiff ran in the Capitol basement to his blatant manipulation of questions during the hearings that got too close for comfort.
A sentence on page 74 of the 110-page White House response summed up the position perfectly:
“The House’s entire factual investigation was carefully orchestrated—and restricted—by an interested fact witness: Chairman Schiff. His repeated falsehoods about the President leave him with no credibility whatsoever.”
Every American who’s followed the impeachment saga understands the truth of what the White House and Cruz are arguing about Adam Schiff.
Only a blindly partisan Democrat could disagree. But the blindly partisan part of the population is the audience Democrats are playing to in advance of the 2020 election.
That’s why they’re trying to play by House rules in the Senate — and attacking the White House counsel.
But House rules don’t apply in the Senate.
And if there’s going to be true accountability, Schiff & Co. will have a good deal to answer for before all this is over.
Maybe Ted Cruz can do the questioning.
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