As a former prosecutor, Rep. Adam Schiff knows he will have to provide a theory of the crime, along with enough evidence to persuade a jury it happened as the theory suggests. The latest draft report by the House Intelligence Committee, released Tuesday, builds its case around a series of actions, calls, and meetings by President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that Trump abused his office, placing “his own personal and political interests above the national interests.”
Judging by only Trump’s transcripts of calls with Ukrainian president Zelensky, the State Department’s actions regarding $400 million in aid, and Trump’s comments regarding the Bidens connection with Burisma and 2016 election interference, that’s a hard case to make. To make impeachment stick, Trump doesn’t have to show that he was right about Ukraine and Hillary’s server, and all those Reddit conspiracy theories–he merely needs to show that if he believed those were true, that he was acting in the nation’s interest.
The tie-in with Trump’s personal interest is centered around Giuliani. It’s always been about Giuliani, who wanders cluelessly through press interviews with more gaffes per minute than Joe Biden praising Vermont at a New Hampshire rally.
It’s no surprise that Schiff’s Intelligence Committee’s report gets very detailed, and in fact reads like a conspiracy theory of its own. It details a series of calls Giuliani made with various people, supported by testimony of who-said-what-to-whom, and the timeline of other events connecting them. For example:
The phone records show that on April 24, the day that Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was recalled to Washington, Mr. Giuliani spoke at least eight times with a White House phone number. Mr. Giuliani has acknowledged pressing Mr. Trump to remove Ms. Yovanovitch from her post, and Mr. Trump subsequently ordered her to be recalled, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
This is classic trial prosecutor stuff, trying to establish a circumstantial case, so that when the key witness is on the stand, he can be trapped into confirming the prosecution’s theory. But the White House (press secretary Stephanie Grisham), like many Trump supporters who hear snippets of the report, says it “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
If it weren’t for Giuliani’s own words and actions, that could very well be true. Rudy has been gallivanting around the world shooting off his loose cannon for over a year, doing Trump’s bidding to get dirt on the Bidens. But is that enough to tie Trump into an impeachment conviction?
Never you mind anyway, because the president’s defense has nothing to do with whether he did it or not. His defense is going to be putting Congress on trial for spending three years in a “witch hunt” to remove him from office. He will attack them for failing to actually legislate, but only grandstand and make political hay.
Even if Giuliani is subpoenaed and forced to testify in an impeachment trial in the Senate, it’s unlikely he could drop a big enough bombshell to take Trump down.
But it’s possible he can.
Schiff is betting on Giuliani being the rat who rats out Trump, either on purpose or by a slip of his own tongue. This is why we have lists of phone calls, lists of obscure names like Kulyk, Lutsenko, Parnas, Shokin, Toensing. diGenova, and Fruman. The impeachment team isn’t trying to prove that Trump’s Ukraine-hacked-the-election claim is false (but it is), because that doesn’t move the needle for impeachment.
They are trying to show that Trump, through Giuliani, used these conspiracy theories to mask his alleged true intentions, which is to pressure Ukraine to politically smear his potential opponent in the 2020 election.
I say good luck trying to make that stick–of course, unless Rudy Giuliani sings like a bird. This is why he’s the one and only key to their case. (I should pause here to mention that if Hillary Clinton was in Trump’s position, we might find Giuliani suffering the same fate as Jeffrey Epstein. But it’s not Trump’s style to have people whacked.)
When we see some final articles of impeachment, they will certainly center around Giuliani, who will then become the most powerful man in America, because he alone will have the ability to sink his client, President Trump.