Tag Archives: Vox.com

“Civil Discourse” As a Device to Suppress the Truth in the U.S. Senate

Well, well, well, what a sad state we have come to. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, sitting as judge in the Senate proceedings on President Trump’s impeachment, ignored blatant personal attacks by White House counsel in their opening salvos against the lead House manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, reminiscent of the hysterical, inappropriate and repeated comments of Reps. Jordan, Nunes, Meadows and other Republicans during the House’s initial consideration of impeachment. White House counsel in fact lied to the Senate about the House investigative process that led to the impeachment. Schiff, when he had the opportunity to call out those lies, spoke diplomatically, saying he would not call counsel liars but would solely note that they were “mistaken” in their descriptions of the House process.

Later, after a ridiculously long day and night (about 13 hours) of alternating argument on motions to subpoena documents and witnesses, all of which were rejected by party-line vote, Rep. Nadler had a turn at the podium. Nadler was there to argue for a subpoena to issue for the testimony of former National Security Adviser John Bolton. In the course of his argument, Nadler asked of the Senate, “Will you choose to be complicit in the president’s coverup? So far, I’m sad to say I see a lot of senators voting for a coverup, voting to deny witnesses — an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously a treacherous vote.”

As reported by Vox.com,

The president’s counsel has no standing to talk about lying,” Nadler said, pointing out that the counsel lied about Trump not being invited to take part in the impeachment inquiry. He told the Senate he personally had invited Trump — which is true — and that “a few days later, we received a letter from Mr. Cipollone on the White House stationary that said, ‘No, there’s no interest in appearing.’ So on the one hand, they’re lying —”

Nadler cut himself off there, and returned to his effort to rebut the White House’s claims with facts. But he returned to his point when concluding his remarks, saying the president “defies everything. Defies the law to withhold aid from Ukraine. Defies the law in a dozen different directions, all the time. And lies about it, all the time. And sends Mr. Cipollone here to lie about it.”

…. Nadler was correct in asserting the White House counsel was lying to the Senate. As Vox’s Aaron Rupar [see https://bit.ly/2TPOfzI] noted, the defense team’s opening remarks alone contained at least four easily refuted lies. And as the proceedings went on, those lies — particularly the claim that Trump had been barred from participating in the impeachment inquiry — were repeated.

Nadler’s statements were an attempt to push back against these false claims — and given the fact that they were delivered after more than 10 hours of deliberation, they may have been couched in some frustration.

Given that frustration, and the length of the day, working to avoiding fistfights on the Senate floor is admirable. And it is important that the drama of the trial be contained to discussions of presidential wrongdoing, rather than on fights.

But if there is no way for either side to openly challenge when the other side is not presenting arguments based on the facts, there is little point in having the trial at all. The way it will end seems predetermined, and what Trump did with respect to Ukraine is clear, meaning its value lies in hearing the best — fact-based — cases for why the president does or does not deserve removal.” [https://bit.ly/2Gd1wKy]

Nadler, likely fatigued by the length of the proceedings as dictated by the Republican majority, spoke very bluntly and, for him, passionately.

Now, the president’s lawyer rose to object, taking umbrage to what he argued was an affront to the Senate, demanding an apology. Suddenly humble and solemn, Mr. Cipollone acted out his new persona as a wounded warrior, advocating not for himself, of course, but for the Senate, for the great body itself.

Astoundingly, in my opinion, the Chief Justice now took it upon himself to admonish the parties to remember that they were speaking to the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” He claimed to be chastising both sides equally, but it was not equal. Not even close.

White House counsel not only attacked House managers personally, but they lied to the Senate about the House process, a fact noted by commentators on news programs. I am pretty hard to surprise these days, but I shared the astonishment of legal commenters that White House counsel would lie to the Senate about something so well-known and so obvious. But they did it. No one demanded they apologize. No one wept about the smudge of the Senate’s supposedly stellar reputation as the “world’s greatest deliberative body” when counsel for the president openly misrepresented facts.

I hope that the Chief Justice is going to manage these contentious and unprecedented proceedings in a more even-handed manner going forward. I am not suggesting he intervene to critique the parties’ arguments as they are made. The parties should be given leeway to make their respective cases. But if we’re going to maintain the pretense that everyone in this conflict must leave passion at the door, that should apply to both sides in equal measure. The phony umbrage of White House counsel is of a piece with the president’s continuing efforts to suppress evidence and damage the credibility of the House investigation. The fact that they represent the president does not authorize the judge in the case to place his thumb on the scale of justice. The next time White House counsel attack the integrity of the House managers or grossly misrepresent known facts, the Chief Justice must call them out immediately and put a stop to what is, in every manifestation so far, a one-sided and fundamentally unfair proceeding.

ADDED NOTE: While the impeachment trial is underway, the Senate GOP is tweeting false statements about Rep. Schiff and the House Democratic process that led to Trump’s impeachment. Question: are Republicans to be allowed to beat their chests about “civil discourse” while simultaneously lying to the world in another forum?