President Donald Trump will almost surely be impeached by the House of Representatives. Given that probability, he should name his impeachment defense team now and charge them with setting expectations for a prolonged and thorough review in the Senate of the events leading up to the impeachment inquiry — that circus of innuendo led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) The president should make clear that his defense will require the exploration of everything the Democrats and their allies at the top of the FBI, the intelligence community and within the White House did during and after the 2016 campaign to undermine his candidacy and then his presidency.
On the left side of the political spectrum, the impeachment allegations at their core are that Trump demanded a quid pro quo: Ukraine’s investigation of possible corruption related to former vice president Joe Biden in exchange for military aid and a White House invitation for Ukraine’s president.
The right rejects that framing and says the impeachment allegations are Act Five of a drama that began in 2015 and cannot be understood, much less evaluated, by senators without a thorough recounting and assessment of everyone’s credibility and connection to the first four acts of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Imagine for example — there is no evidence of this but it is purely an illustration of why a searching inquiry is required — that the government “whistleblower” in the Ukrainian matter is a close associate of a central figure in the Obama administration’s national-security apparatus, and perhaps one deeply connected to, say, the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris climate accords. Everyone knows motive matters. We need to know the motives of all involved.
The president’s impeachment defense team should publish the list of witnesses they expect to call. That should include former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former FBI director James Comey, former CIA director John Brennan, former national intelligence director James Clapper Jr. and former FBI personnel Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Add to the list everyone involved in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants for U.S. citizens connected to these matters, everyone who touched or forwarded the bogus “Steele dossier” about Trump, Russia and the 2016 election, and every member of special counsel Robert Mueller III’s team, which didn’t sufficiently investigate the dossier. Testimony from all of them is needed to explore what happened and why, leading up to the Schiff sham.
The president’s team should also make clear that his defense in this political trial will include examining the political equivalent of prosecutorial misconduct by Schiff, beginning with his alleged contact with the whistleblower before the complaint became public. The whistleblower will of course also have to testify, so that motives can be determined, as discussed above. Trump is entitled to every bit of evidence his accusers possess, just as he is to making the case that the impeachment is a rush to judgment and that those acting as prosecutors here are the corrupt actors, not the president.
Trump needs a team that is wholly new and wholly independent of the staff that has been in his circle until now. To represent him in the Senate trial, he needs a former federal judge, preferably with federal prosecutor experience, from far outside the Beltway and unconcerned with the opinion of D.C. elites or invitations to the right parties — someone in the prime of his or her career and tough as nails.
The president also needs a spokesperson for the impeachment trial with superb media skills and a willingness to battle the daily drumbeat of biased coverage. The public needs to be reminded daily of the unrelenting effort to oust Trump by whatever means necessary; of the “insurance policy” Strzok and Page sought in case Trump was elected; of the Mueller report that found no collusion with Russia but never dealt with the origins of the irregular investigation of the major party candidate by rogue operators. The spokesperson needs to be relentless on those subjects, committed to broadening the scope of the discussion, and able to speak forcefully about Schiff’s circus and the stakes involved in unseating a president. I suggest former House member and now Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz, who would bring a Tony Snow-like confidence and demeanor to what will be a months-long trial.
Yes, months long. You read that right. Schiff and his media allies may expect a narrow, carefully limited show trial. But the Senate will set the rules for its trial, and the president’s team should announce now that he demands the opportunity to fully clear his name. His base can be rallied to buttress that demand.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may not want to see the Senate tied up for half a year in grinding proceedings, even though that is what’s needed. If the Senate’s majority prefers, it could appoint a special committee to hear the proceedings and report its findings to the main body, consistent with the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Nixon v. United States involving the impeachment of federal judge Walter Nixon.
Trump should demand the opportunity to use the Senate trial to turn the tables on his would-be Inspector Javert. McConnell should announce that the president will be given that chance. The left will call it a “scorched earth” approach. Trump supporters will call it just. Those in the middle will simply call it overdue.