In a clear sign of desperation, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) launched one of the most ridiculous attacks Wednesday afternoon on the expert legal witnesses testifying before the House Judiciary Committee as part of impeachment proceedings. And rather than being embarrassed by his absurd line of argument, the White House’s and President Donald Trump’s Twitter accounts shared a video of the argument.
Gaetz showed either a complete misunderstanding of the proceedings or a complete contempt for the intelligence of his audience by asking the expert witnesses: “If you have personal knowledge of a single material fact in the Schiff report, please raise your hand.”
They didn’t, of course. But they weren’t meant to. The House Intelligence Committee investigated the facts of the case and produced the report on the Ukraine scandal, overseen by Chair Adam Schiff. Now the Judiciary Committee is assessing whether the facts merit impeachment, which is why it’s relevant to consult legal experts.
It would, in fact, be inappropriate to consult fact witnesses about legal conclusions in a case.
And at the same time, further demonstrating either ignorance or bad faith, Gaetz said that the expert witnesses having no factual knowledge of the “Schiff report” would continue “on the tradition we saw from Adam Schiff.” But the witnesses Schiff brought forward did have factual knowledge contained in the report — that’s what the report was based on.
But Gaetz went on to complain that the witnesses in the Intelligence Committee proceedings didn’t identify impeachable offenses or legal violations in their testimony. Again, this wasn’t their role: they were simply supposed to provide their accounts of what happened. Had they opined on whether Trump’s conduct was impeachable, they would have been skewered as partisan actors by the likes of Gaetz.
So his complaint boiled down to the idea that the legal experts didn’t present the facts, and that the fact witnesses didn’t present legal analysis. It turns the point of the proceedings on its head. It would be like objecting in a criminal trial that the judge or the prosecutor didn’t even see the crime take place.
But Gaetz was unashamed to make such embarrassing arguments, and the White House didn’t hesitate to amplify them. Perhaps this is the best they think they’ve got.
Watch the clip below:
Anyone with personal knowledge of a single material fact in the Schiff report? pic.twitter.com/HOIOEsRg9Y
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 4, 2019
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Is a national and foreign correspondent based in D.C. She files investigative reports and covers breaking news on a range of topics, including corruption, police shootings, etc. Before joining the TimWorld in 2018, she worked at the Miami Herald. She was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University.