Opinion: Trump calls Pelosi's bluff
President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed the secret impeachment hearings in the Capitol basement as "a totally compromised kangaroo court." Sounds like Speaker Nancy Pelosi got the message. Last month, she announced the full House will vote to formally launch impeachment proceedings, which will be out in the open instead of in the dark.
Until now, Democrats have been trying to trick the public into believing they've got the goods on Trump. But the truth is, none of the witnesses they've called so far have had any firsthand knowledge of presidential wrongdoing.
Behind closed doors and with no press allowed, House Democrats have tried to put on the appearance of a legal proceeding. At the end of each session, they leak to the press what they claim happened. The media are all too willing to play along, printing the Democratic pols' claims as if they were fact. "Powerful testimony from multiple state and national security officials," the Hill reports, adding up to a "scathing picture of Trump and his allies withholding nearly $400 million in security aid from Ukraine."
Politico called Ukrainian Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony "explosive," though Taylor's prepared statement merely regurgitated what other State Department minions had told him. His source was the rumor mill. In law, it's called hearsay.
The New York Times reports "a rapidly moving investigation securing damning testimony." That's hardly the case. But soon the jig will be up. Regardless of how many "witnesses" the Democrats parade into the Capitol hearing, it won't matter if they have no firsthand knowledge. Even the Times concedes that to impeach a president, the House needs proof "tying him directly" to wrongdoing.
Before Pelosi's announcement on Monday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who's overseeing the secret hearings, gave up on calling witnesses who have direct, firsthand working relationships with Trump and can attest to what the president has said and done.
Schiff caved after a key witness actually challenged the committee's subpoena as illegitimate and said see you in court. Charles Kupperman, former deputy national security adviser — and one of the few people who was on Trump's call with the Ukrainian president — filed a lawsuit, arguing that the House committee can't compel testimony for an impeachment until the full House has voted to authorize subpoenas for that purpose. That, of course, is the vote Pelosi was dodging.
"We are not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope with the courts," Schiff said. Translation: Democrats don't think they'd win in the highest court.
They also don't want to risk dragging the inquiry on for months, as they did with the Mueller investigation. Better to ram anything through. After all, without evidence of grave wrongdoing, the Republican-controlled Senate won't remove this president from office.
But Dems have one goal: to impeach Trump, damaging him enough to tip the 2020 election.
Schiff's cynical decision not to meet Kupperman in court indicates he's also not going to press for testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry or former National Security Adviser John Bolton — advisers who actually know the facts about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Additional witnesses are scheduled to appear before Schiff's committee later this week. But they'll likely offer more of the same, predicts Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an Intelligence Committee member witnessing the charade. "It's always people who talked to people who have talked to other people who think that he might have meant this," says Meadows.
Meanwhile, Trump released the transcript of his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president. He didn't have to. If there's any kind of presidential communication that's legally protected, it's conversation between two heads of state. Even so, Democrats and their media allies claim the call is damning evidence of a quid pro quo. All you have to do to see that that's false is read the words yourself.
The public's not stupid, and Pelosi is a far better politician than Schiff. Polls show fewer than half of voters support impeachment in key swing states like Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These are states Trump won in 2016, and Pelosi has been reluctant to put Democratic members from these states on the spot. But Trump's called her bluff. Now the Democrats will have to put up or shut up.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.