House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) declared Wednesday that, effectively, the president can be impeached for trying to defend himself, lawfully, against impeachment.
“We want to make it abundantly clear that any effort by the secretary [of state], by the president, or anyone else to interfere with the Congress’s ability to call before it relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress,” Schiff said.
In any ordinary court proceeding, a defendant can move to exclude even relevant witnesses whose testimony fails to meet the basic standards required of the rules of evidence. Hearsay evidence, for example, is almost always ruled out — especially when actual first-hand evidence is available.
In this case, neither the president nor the secretary of state is trying to silence witnesses. And why would they? Did Trump stop anyone from testifying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the “Russia collusion” investigation? Did he declare any documents off-limits under “executive privilege”?
No — and he set an example for transparency, even while denouncing the “witch hunt.”
What is actually happening is that the Democrats are trying to violate existing processes for interviewing witnesses. As Secretary of State noted in a letter Tuesday to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-CA), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democrats are telling State Department staff that they are compelled to testify without issuing subpoenas, or even providing formal notice — and without giving them time to consult with their own lawyers.
Defending the rights of potential witnesses is not “obstruction.” It is fundamental to our system of justice.
And note that there is one witness that Schiff and the Democrats will not allow the president to call. Schiff and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continue to deny President Donald Trump the right to confront his accuser, the so-called “whistleblower,” a right arguably guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. No, the president does not face a criminal prosecution, but an impeachment inquiry is meant to be a public process, not a Star Chamber or a Stalinesque show trial. Democrats act as if the hearsay “whistleblower” can be concealed forever.
Pelosi even continues to claim that an “impeachment inquiry” is not the same as an “impeachment.” She will not force Democrats to take a politically difficult vote to authorize a formal impeachment investigation, so she is just making up the rules as she goes along. That puts President Trump in the Kafkaesque position of not only being accused of things that are not crimes, but also being uncertain if he is being formally accused of anything at all.
Schiff, Pelosi, and the Democrats are behaving like totalitarians — perhaps providing a taste of what the public can expect if Democrats win in 2020.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.