Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
The Democrats, acting through the House Intelligence Committee, have completed two weeks of public testimony, including 2 witnesses requested by the Republicans. The witnesses, except for Ambassador Sondlund, were all career intelligence or foreign affairs professionals. The witnesses’ testimony was based on their personal knowledge – phone calls, conversations, written documents – as well as the conclusions they drew based upon what they knew and/or heard and their long experience in the area of US foreign policy towards Ukraine and Russia. Unanimously the witnesses concluded that President Trump conditioned a White House meeting between him and President Zelensky of the Ukraine AND the release of the suspended military aide upon investigations by Ukraine officials into (a) alleged corruption on the part of former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and (b) thoroughly debunked theories that the Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election and that Hillary Clinton’s missing server is in the Ukraine. The professional witnesses also concluded that such action by the President served to undermine legitimate US foreign policy objectives.
The Republicans, for the most part, focused on the absence of the use of the words”quid pro quo” by the President as well as the fact that the most of the witnesses relied upon what would be hearsay in a criminal trial; that is, they did not personally hear or see a particular incident or conversation but relied upon what was told to them second or even third hand. Attempts by some Republican members of the Committee, and President Trump, to diminish the credibility of the witnesses or question their loyalty or reasons for testifying fell on deaf ears and largely rebounded against the accuser.
Today it is unknown whether or not the Intelligence Committee will have additional public witnesses or closed door depositions followed by public testimony. There are a number of high-ranking current or former officials – former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, etc. – that the Democrats would like to testify. However, they have refused to come forward even though subpoenaed and the Democrats are unwilling to delay the process while the courts determine the validity of the subpoenas. Republicans cannot summon witnesses to testify without approval from the Democrat Chairman of the Intelligence Committee or the full Committee.
Once the Intelligence Committee has concluded its work, as determined by the majority Democrats, the majority Democrats and the minority Republicans will each prepare a written report outlining their respective conclusions from the testimony. I understand both reports will be made public. Both reports will be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Judiciary Committee may or may not have closed door depositions and/or public testimony. At the conclusion of their efforts, formal Articles of Impeachment may (undoubtedly) be drafted and voted upon by the Judiciary Committee. Any Article of Impeachment that receives a majority vote will be sent to the full House of Representatives for debate and vote. Any Article that gets 50% plus one in the House goes to the Senate for a trial.
No one knows for sure what the timetable is or will be for this process. Informed speculation is that the House will conclude its work before Christmas and the Senate will take up any Articles of Impeachment sent to that body early next year.
If impeached, which seems inevitable, President Trump will be only the third President in the history of the United States to have been impeached. No President has been removed from office after being impeached.
As the process of impeachment winds its way through the committee maze, please keep fully in mind that Impeachment is fundamentally a political, not legal, process.