Adam Schiff, the House manager leading the impeachment case against President Trump, did an excellent job of presenting a fundamentally flawed and fallacious argument in his opening statement yesterday. Schiff is a former federal prosecutor who was articulate and seemingly factual and well-prepared, albeit a little self-righteous. He quoted extensively from White House documents and the testimony of aides and officials who were concerned about the temporary hold on military aid to Ukraine, which gave his presentation an undeserved aura of credibility.
But Schiff provided absolutely no factual support for the crucial premise on which his entire case depends. Schiff asserted repeatedly, without providing any evidence, that the matters the president asked Ukraine to investigate were “kooky conspiracy theories” that no one could possibly believe. Change that one unsupported premise, and the whole house of cards collapses.
Assume for purposes of argument that the matters that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate were based on reasonable suspicions of misconduct. If so, his actions were all proper and well within his constitutional duty to take care that the laws are properly enforced rather than a “scheme” to “cheat” in the next election, as Schiff repeatedly asserted.
Schiff used a rhetorical trick that sophists, including former federal prosecutors, have known throughout history: provide elaborate factual support for peripheral details and hope that the impression that your argument is factual will carry over to the critical premise, for which you can offer no support whatsoever.
A law firm with which I am affiliated represents the Biden campaign on certain election matters, so I am not allowed to say anything about the Bidens, and I will not do so. But I urge every fair-minded person to read the full transcript of Schiff’s opening statement with an eye for unsupported, conclusory statements that various matters were “conspiracy theories” that had been repeatedly “debunked.”
If you are too busy to do that, or your mind is made up, just do a search for the words “conspiracy theory,” “false,” and “debunked” here. You’ll come up with many examples of totally unsupported assertions by Mr. Schiff. He refers repeatedly to the consensus conclusions of unnamed “experts” that the president lacked a reasonable basis for requesting investigations. Based on that assumption, he jumps to the conclusion that the president’s requests must reflect a “corrupt motive” to “cheat” in the next election, including the following:
- “President Trump and his agents pressed the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into [a] false claim … This allegation is simply untrue, and it has been widely debunked by Ukrainian and American experts alike.”
- “[R]eality mattered not to President Trump.… It was a smear tactic.”
- “President Trump had no interest in fighting corruption.… Rather, his interest was in furthering corruption, by the announcement of investigations that were completely without merit.”
- “To implement his corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.”
- “[W]hich brings us to the other sham investigation that President Trump demanded.… This investigation was related to a debunked conspiracy theory alleging that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” [Emphasis added.]
Lots of lurid adjectives; no evidence.
Note also how quickly Mr. Schiff shifts from the claim that Ukraine may have interfered in the 2016 election to putting words that Trump never said into the president’s mouth that “therefore” Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. This is a total non sequitur, as Schiff certainly knows; it is possible that both Ukraine and Russia tried to influence the 2016 election, as others, including Sen. Ted Cruz have pointed out. This is not the first time that Schiff has attributed words to the president that he didn’t say.
As President Reagan famously said, “There you go again.”
- “This narrative — propagated by Russia’s intelligence services — contends that Ukraine sought to help Hillary Clinton and harm then-candidate Trump, and that a computer server proving this fiction is hidden somewhere in Ukraine. That is the so-called “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory.” [Emphasis added.]
The claim that this “narrative” was “propagated by Russia’s intelligence service” is classic guilt by association: if the Russian intelligence service said it, then it must be a “fiction” and can’t possibly be true. Wrong! Sometimes even Russians tell the truth.
I have no idea whether or not there was a reasonable basis for looking into these matters. I do know, however, that the crucial premise on which the Democrats’ impeachment theories depend is that the president had no reasonable basis to request such investigations. Accordingly, the Democrats should have the obligation to prove, not merely assert, their premise. In a court of law, a motion to dismiss would properly be granted if the opening statement did not promise to provide evidence to support a critical premise for the proponents’ legal theory.
To his credit, Schiff openly admitted in his opening statement yesterday that the lynchpin for his case against the president is the dubious legal theory that an otherwise legal action by the president becomes an impeachable offense if done for what his critics see as a “corrupt motive.”
I have argued elsewhere in these pages against this unprecedented legal theory as a basis for impeachment on the grounds that speculation about what it in the president’s mind is too unreliable to form the basis for an impeachment.
A long, well-reasoned letter, released yesterday, from the attorneys general of 21 states makes similar legal arguments. Remarkably, the left-wing media refused to even mention it while parroting Schiff’s speculative theories in detail.
When a seasoned pro like Sen Feinstein risks prison to WALK OUT ON SCHIFF you know you’ve lost.
There were so many times Schiff slipped into his screenplay writer persona during his monologue.
How could you tell if he was making up whole conversations or just parts?
How did he so often seem to know what people who hardly ever talk with him are thinking?
Is he a mind-reader?
If he is willing to pepper his speech with fictional lines some of the time, why not all of the time?
And the selective harvesting of quotes from not-quite-witnesses who ALSO refuted completely their own testimony under cross right there in the House’s Republican counsel questionings.
He’s a lying, seditious bastard whose methods are more suited to the USSR and other like countries who needs to testify under oath about his claims and be investigated. But being a demokrat, he is above the law.