The “witness intimidation” farce

Unlike John, I don’t consider the impeachment proceedings against President Trump a farce. However, aspects of the proceedings are farcical.

Today, while Marie Yovanovitch, ambassador to Ukraine until Trump sacked her, was testifying before Adam Schiff’s committee, the president tweeted some negative things about her. He wrote:

Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

This is mild stuff by Trumpian standards. However, Democrats promptly, and in unison, called this witness intimidation.

Actually Yovanovitch probably wouldn’t have known about the alleged intimidation had not Schiff brought it to her attention. Schiff asked the former ambassador whether she felt intimidated by Trump’s tweet. She duly affirmed that she did.

Yovanovitch may have meant she found the tweet unpleasant, not that she was actually intimidated by it. In any event, as far as I can tell, her approach to answering questions didn’t change after Schiff helpfully advised her of Trump’s tweet.

Indeed, Schiff surely knew the tweet wouldn’t cause her to feel genuinely intimidated. Otherwise, he would not have brought it to her attention. What prosecutor wants to cause his witness to feel intimidated while testifying?

If Yovanovitch actually was intimidated, as opposed to displeased, by the tweet, that’s pathetic. Anyone who can’t handle the low level criticism in Trump’s tweet shouldn’t be the U.S. ambassador to any nation, and certainly not Ukraine.

Trump has the right to criticize the witnesses being called by Democrats in their effort to terminate his presidency. Whether it’s a good idea or not, I don’t know. But that’s how Trump responds in cases like these.

And there’s nothing illegal about it. Speaking ill of a witness isn’t witness intimidation. Trump made no threat. He has not forfeited his right to opine about people just because the Democrats are calling them as witnesses in their effort to put the president in the dock.

The Democrats started the impeachment process by fixating on the claim of quid pro quo. Such a claim can be a valid basis for impeachment if it involves a serious enough abuse of power.

However, “quid pro quo” apparently hasn’t played very well before focus groups. Thus, Democrats are searching for a label that people understand to be a crime. “Bribery” is their main candidate, but “witness intimidation” would be nice to throw in.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Trump didn’t engage in it today. And if Trump’s tweets of his opinions about witnesses become the basis for an article of impeachment, I think the public will laugh the Dems out of court, so to speak, on that one.

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