In this image from video, impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks in favor of a amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
The Democrats pulled a move today that if you look at it closely, could really backfire on them.
As my colleague Streiff reported earlier, the House Managers made new demands today that included White House Counsel Pat Cipollone be foreclosed from doing his job.
According to the group, they contended in a letter that Cipollone was a “fact witness” and so shouldn’t be allowed to defend President Donald Trump during the impeachment trial because he might be called. They dropped that just hours before the trial started.
“Evidence indicates that, at a minimum, you have detailed knowledge of the facts regarding the first Article and played an instrumental role in the conduct charged in the second Article,” the seven Democratic managers write. “The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is also likely a necessary witness.”
The first Article of impeachment accuses Trump of abuse of power. The Democrats believe that Trump coerced a foreign power for his own political benefit during his phone call with Ukraine and that multiple witnesses raised their concerns with John Eisenberg, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs. Eisenberg reports directly to Cipollone. The Democrats add that they have evidence to suggest that Cipollone was also involved in the decision to shield the whistleblower complaint against Trump from Congress and the public.
Even if Cipollone does not take the witness stand, his status as an unsworn witness “risk seriously damaging the fairness of the trial,” they reason, concluding that his dual roles as an advocate and a witness is grounds for disqualification.
The rest of the letter: pic.twitter.com/R3LiMMcmZD
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 21, 2020
As Streiff noted, there are some obvious problems with their arguments as far as Cipollone. Why didn’t they call him before if they thought he was so vital? That would argue against their contention and suggest they were just now trying to undercut Trump’s defense team. Again, these are also likely privileged conversations.
But there’s a greater point here that seems to have gone right over the Democrats’ heads.
Guess who else is a fact witness then who could be potentially called and shouldn’t be an advocate at a trial? That’s right, Adam Schiff.
Using this same logic, why can’t the Republicans argue to knock Schiff out? Or to have him now presumably presenting under oath, ask him questions about the whistleblower and his contacts with him?
There’s no evidence Cipollone met with these folks personally, there is evidence that Schiff’s staff had contact with the whistleblower and the whistleblower sent him a letter which likely had the complaint in it. Put him under oath and ask him all the questions about contacts and knowledge of the whistleblower.
Democrats can’t object, didn’t they just argue fact witnesses can be called? Aren’t they arguing we need to have witnesses? Every argument they make for Cipollone is actually stronger for Schiff.