(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Jim Jordan was almost able to get Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to utter the name of the alleged whistleblower, Eric Ciaramella, during questioning two weeks ago. (I do love printing his name, repeatedly, especially in my headlines.) But since that near catastrophe, Adam Schiff isn’t taking any chances. He’s even managed to bring the witnesses’ attorneys on board.
The Democrats have learned a lesson or two in the last few years, the most important one being to never let Republicans find out about the origins of an investigation. Their reckless approach to the Russian collusion hoax left behind a trail of clues, none of which would have been an issue if Hillary had won as they all believed she would. But it didn’t quite work out as they’d planned. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has now spent a year and eight months and U.S. Attorney John Durham, at least six months, investigating how it all began.
Now Democrats are going scorched earth. They will not leave anything behind that Republicans might one day use against them. And it all starts in the hearing room.
On Saturday, Schiff reluctantly released the Trump-friendly testimony of Tim Morrison, the outgoing National Security Council’s (NSC) Senior Director for European Affairs, to whom Schiff’s star witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, reported to. I posted about Morrison’s testimony here.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York writes that Democrats are well aware how, “beyond a limited prohibition applying to the inspector general of the intelligence community, no law bars anyone, in politics, media, or anywhere else, from revealing the whistleblower’s identity. So they worry.”
It’s been nearly three weeks since RealClearInvestigation’s Paul Sperry published Eric Ciaramella’s name and most Americans know it. The Washington political community has known it for at least two months. But, somehow if they confirm it, and voters find out definitively that the highly partisan, politically motivated, Soros-connected Ciaramella is the one who triggered the President’s impeachment, it would be a huge embarrassment for the entire party. Thus, they must fiercely guard this secret. York writes:
Democrats do not want the public to know. And in that, their position is familiar to anyone who has watched Washington for the last two years: The Democrats’ determination to cut off questions about the origins of the Trump-Ukraine investigation is strikingly similar to their determination to cut off questions about the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. In both cases, they fought hard to keep secret the origins of investigations that have shaken the nation, deeply divided the electorate, and affected the future of the presidency.
From their point of view, it makes sense. Democrats were rattled by Republican efforts to uncover the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. The Steele dossier, the use of spies and informants to target the Trump campaign, the Carter Page wiretap, the murky start to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation — Democrats resisted GOP attempts to reveal them all. But in 2017 and 2018, Republicans controlled the House. Then-Chairman Devin Nunes used the power of the House Intelligence Committee to unearth key parts of the story. Nunes’ efforts eventually led to a Justice Department inspector general investigation whose results, expected in the coming weeks, could further damage the Democratic Trump-Russia storyline. And then there is the ongoing criminal investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Do not allow inquiry into the origins of the investigation.
The transcripts of depositions his committee has released are filled with example after example of Schiff, or lawyers acting at his direction, stopping questioning that might lead to how the investigation began.
In the transcript excerpt below, Schiff seems to have Morrison’s attorney on his side, despite the fact that his testimony supported Trump. Morrison is being questioned by House Republican lawyer Steve Castro. Morrison, who is not fond of Vindman, has just questioned his judgement. He tells the committee, “I had concerns that he did not exercise appropriate judgment as to whom he would say what.”
During his testimony, Vindman admitted he was so upset after listening to President Trump’s July 25th call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he shared the read-out of the call with several others. Many people believe the whistleblower was one of them. Schiff wanted to prevent Morrison from offering his opinion on that.
Schiff said, “We want to make sure that there is no effort to try to, by process of elimination, identify the whistleblower. If you think [Republican] questions are designed to get at that information, or may produce that information, I would encourage you to follow your counsel’s advice.”
So, of course, Steve Castor goes there. He asks Morrison, “What types of officials in the course of his duties would he be responsible for providing read-outs to?”
Morrison: “He may have felt it appropriate to speak to other departments and agencies if they had questions about the call.”
Castor: “Do you know if he did?”
Castor: “And who — do you know who he spoke to?”
Morrison’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, interrupts and says, “I’m not going to allow him to answer that, it is beyond the scope of this inquiry.”
Van Gelder: “I’m just saying it is outside the scope of what I believe his testimony is, which is whether President Trump jeopardized U.S. national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 election, and by withholding a White House meeting with Ukraine and military assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters.” York notes that “her language mirrored Democratic language in several Ukraine-related letters to administration officials.”
Castor: “Did you have any other communications with [Vindman] about the call?”
Castor: “And what were those?”
Van Gelder: “You’re not going to talk about that.”
Several days earlier, before Vindman was to be questioned by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Schiff issued a warning. He said, “Can I just caution again? Not to go into names of people affiliated with the IC in any way.”
Zeldin asked Vindman who else he had discussed the call with. His attorney, Michael Volkov, pounced.
It appeared that Schiff had some sort of prior agreement with all of the lawyers.
Volkov: “What I’m telling you right now is we’re not going to answer that question. If the chair wants to hold him in contempt for protecting the whistleblower, God be with you … If you want to ask, you can ask — you can ask questions about his conversation with Mr. Kent. That’s it. We’re not answering any others.”
Zeldin: “The only conversation that we can speak to Col. Vindman about is his conversation with Ambassador Kent?”
Volkov: “Correct. And you’ve already asked him questions about it.”
The Democrats have already reached their conclusion. The President will be found guilty of something. They seemed to be zeroing in on bribery last week. Nancy Pelosi issued the order and the entire mainstream media spent the weekend repeating the new talking point. Out with quid pro quo, in with bribery. A focus group found that played better with voters.
In an interview with journalist Margaret Brennan on Sunday, Pelosi said the hearings might extend into the new year. Have it your way Nancy. You may have just shot yourself in the foot. The public’s initial enthusiasm (as measured by polls) seems to be waning, the Horowitz report is due to be released shortly after Thanksgiving (we hope) and the Democratic presidential primaries will be starting up. Do what you have to do Nancy. Whichever way it goes in the House, it will soon be out of their hands and the Senate can decide how to proceed. With a Republican majority, you can bet President Trump’s constitutional rights will be restored to him. And that list of witnesses the Republicans had wanted to call? They’ll be subpoenaed. Including wonder boy, Eric Ciaramella. Eric Ciaramella. Eric Ciaramella.
It’s not as easy as you think to remove a President from office Madame Speaker.