House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) failed to swear in the two counsels for both the Democrats and Republicans prior to their opening statements in Monday’s impeachment inquiry hearing.
Though staff members are not typically sworn in, witnesses must be sworn in and deliver testimony under oath.
Both Democrat counsel Barry Berke and Republican Counsel Stephen Castor delivered opening statements. Berke in particular made several factual assertions — many of which were dubious at best, and outright false at worst.
For example, Berke claimed that State Department staffer David Holmes had “heard it from the president himself” when he testified that President Donald Trump was interested in Ukraine conducting investigations.
In fact, Holmes had not heard anything directly from the president. Rather, he claimed to have overheard part of a conversation on a mobile phone between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and the president. Sondland was at an outdoor table at a restaurant at the time, and Holmes had been drinking wine with him and two other staffers. Despite a habit of taking notes, and despite the fact that he later emailed the U.S. embassy in Sweden about a part of the conversation dealing with then-jailed U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky, Holmes never wrote down what he later claimed he heard the president telling Sondland. Burke suggested, however, that he heard the president first-hand.
In addition, Berke played a deceptively edited clip of President Trump speaking at a Turning Point USA conference, claiming that the president believed he could do “whatever I want.” In fact, as the full context of the president’s statement — a fragment of a sentence — made clear, Trump was talking specifically about his power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which he did not ultimately do.
Nadler’s failure to swear in the witnesses was significant because it allowed the counsels to make claims without fear of perjuring themselves.
It was also significant for another reason: when Republicans raised a point of order, objecting to Berke impugning the president’s motives, which is forbidden under House rules, Nadler ruled that the point of order was invalid because Berke was not a witness.
Later, Nadler described Berke and Castor as witnesses, prompting Republican objections that he had contradicted himself.
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.