Rembrandt van Rijn Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem 1630
Watching Day 1 yesterday of the impeachment inquiry that isn’t one, I was thinking about an old children’s game, which is just as useful for adults, in which, in a wide circle of persons, no. 1 tells no. 2 a story, no. 2 tells no. 3, and so forth. If the total numbers of persons in the circle is large enough, it’s certain that the story, if it has enough details, will have changed unrecognizably by, say, no. 20.
That little game is a nice illustration of why you’ve all heard the words “Hearsay, Your Honor” spoken by some lawyer or another in 1000+ movies and TV series. And hearsay was all there was yesterday from “witnesses” Bill Taylor and George Kent. They are both “witnesses” who didn’t witness anything related to the hearing in course and neither ever met or spoke to President Trump, but both claim to know exactly what he was thinking, why he did what he did, and said what he said, based on things they heard from third parties, quite a few of whom remain anonymous.
Little of what they said would therefore be ruled admissible in a court of law. But the House inquiry is not a court of law. It can probably best be compared to a grand jury, a very one-sided format designed to let a prosecutor find and present enough evidence to let a case go to court. If Taylor and Kent had been in a court room, you would have heard “Hearsay, Your Honor” about once in every ten seconds. That gets old fast.
So why do we have this circus going on when it is obvious that round 2 (or 3, if you think the basement hearings were round 1), the Senate trial which must follow if the Dems decide to impeach Trump, has to acquit him because the House based its entire case on hearsay? I don’t know, but perhaps we see some of it in Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley (IL)’s statement: “Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct … and it’s certainly valid in this instance”
Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley (IL) on evidence: “Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct … and it’s certainly valid in this instance” pic.twitter.com/JD0Ui6acxD
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 13, 2019
Note that Quigley in that little video got shut down very rapidly in his enthusiasm for using hearsay by someone (I can’t see who) saying none of the exceptions he seemed to refer to applied to “this testimony”. And that’s the crux here: courts may have in the past, after much deliberation, allowed hearsay in specific cases, but Quigley tries to make it look as if that is now some general rule, and that is certainly not true.
Before I forget, something that struck me at the start yesterday was how both Adam Schiff and Bill Taylor in their openings emphasized their focus on Russia, while this case is not about that, but about Ukraine. And Russia Russia Russia has been shot down along with Robert Muller in his memorably awful “defense” of his failed report a few months ago.
Schiff’s opening words:
In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire. In the following years, thirteen thousand Ukrainians died as they battled superior Russian forces.
There is so much wrong and debatable and leading and what not in just those few words, I don’t even know where to start. I guess perhaps I should be shouting out “Hearsay, Your Honor” at the top of my lungs. Then there’s Taylor:
After his opening statement, Taylor answers questions. He tells committee members: “If we withdraw or suspend or threaten to withdraw our security assistance” to Ukraine, it sends a “message to Ukrainians, but its just as important to the Russians who are looking for any sign of weakness”. “That affects us” he adds. It affects the world that we live in; that our children and grandchildren will grow up in,” he adds, appearing to become emotional. “Ukraine is on the front line of that conflict,” he concludes.
These statements are important because they tell us that Schiff and Taylor both see the world through the same glasses. The Russians are looking for signs of US weakness that they can use to advance their grand plan to (re) build a grand empire. That comes with the idea that the US didn’t cause the mayhem in Ukraine in 2014 with their coup, no, it was Russia which reacted so it wouldn’t lose its only warm water port.
Back to the hearing. Taylor said it was his “clear understanding” that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until the Bidens and other matters were investigated. At the very least there is no proof of that. It’s much more likely from what we know today that Ukraine didn’t know Trump withheld the aid until after the July 25 phone call this whole thing rests on. It was suggested yesterday that they didn’t know until the end of August, but I’ve seen people claim that they knew a few weeks earlier. But Zelensky didn’t know on July 25, that we can agree on.
And anyway, this is merely Taylor’s opinion. Based on hearsay. Based on what some guy told him some other guy told him etc etc. And though Taylor never met Trump, the very idea of withholding aid to one of the most corrupt nations on the planet scares the heebees out of him because Russia Russia Russia.
Taylor is a career diplomat who has bought hook line and sinker into established US policy in the region, and who will defend it until his dying breath. And if that means going against the president of the country he allegedly serves, who has every right to rebalance that policy, Taylor will do it. That is what he was saying.
Taylor came close to matching Mueller’s uber-bumbling performance the other day, though he didn’t quite get there. Kent was not quite that bad, but he’s in the same camp, the same career field, and the same deep state, FBI-CIA controlled policy-making no matter who gets elected president. And looking at Bill Taylor, how can one not question the wisdom of people like him making decisions on matters such as that?
Republican counsel Steve Castor started off strong, at least from what I saw, but seemed to fizzle out a little because he became lost in his own one question every five seconds model. Perhaps it was the format, maximum time limits etc., which you don’t have in a courtroom. Jim Jordan did well, he just got named to the committee, but he could have been more effective as well. Still, this part was strong:
You didn’t listen in on President Trump & Zelensky’s call?
Taylor: I did not.
Jordan: You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?
Taylor: I never did.
Jordan: You’ve never met the President?
Taylor: That’s correct.
Jordan: And you’re their star witness.
All in all, if you thought yesterday was a good day for the Democrats, for the inquiry, or for Adam Schiff, you really need to check a few fundamental issues. All Schiff managed to bring to the table was hearsay. And it’s only because of the grand jury-like format that he even gets to start day 2. No judge would have let him. But there is no judge, and there is no jury. There’s only an executioner.
PS I found this thing from the BBC intriguing and illustrative:
Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, said a member of his staff was told Mr Trump was preoccupied with pushing for a probe into Mr Biden. He was speaking at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
[..] During a detailed opening statement, Mr Taylor said a member of his staff had overheard a telephone call in which the president inquired about “the investigations” into Mr Biden. The call was with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who reportedly told the president over the phone from a restaurant in Kyiv that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward”. After the call, the staff member “asked ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine”, Mr Taylor said. Mr Taylor said: “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”
First, it argues that a member of Taylor’s staff was told something by a third party, but later it changes to him/her hearing the president “live”. Albeit through an allegedly private phone call in which Trump may have sounded a bit loud. You want to impeach your president on the basis of a maybe overheard phone call that someone told you someone told someone else about?
By the way, that phone call allegedly was between Trump and Gordon Sondland, hotelier cum US ambassador to the EU, the same person who testified in the famous Schiff basement and whose laywer at some point contested Taylor’s statements about what Sondland told him, after which the latter went back to the basement to change his testimony. He said she said but then he said and then she said and so on.
What’s on the schedule for the circus today, is it the clowns or the elephants? I may take a day off. We have weeks more of this. And already I have no idea left of who told whom what.
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