The Impulse Buy Impeachment: How The Democrats Yielded To The Holiday Frenzy Over Facts

Below is my column in the Los Angeles Times on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The failure to take a little more time to secure additional witnesses (or court orders against the Administration) has already come back to haunt the House. If the Senate now decides to try the President on the thin record of the House, the House will have given the White House an easy avenue to acquittal. If the House was not willing to seek to compel the testimony of these witnesses, it will be in a poor position to demand that the Senate now complete the record that it prematurely closed with its vote. Had they waited just a couple months, they might have been able to secure some of these witnesses, particularly if they had not burned four months without seeking to compel witnesses like Bolton or, bizarrely, withdrew its subpoena for Kupperman before a court could rule.

Here is the column:

Wednesday’s impeachment of President Trump exemplifies the danger of impulse buying during the holiday rush. Despite a record of evidence that is both incomplete and conflicted, the House leadership stuck to its promise to Democratic voters that it would impeach Trump by Christmas.

There is a reason people make impulse purchases — and bring impulse impeachments. A few years ago, professors Juliet Zhu and Grace Chae completed a study of impulse buying and concluded that it increases when shoppers are “surrounded by chaos,” which “ultimately impairs [the] ability to perform other tasks requiring ‘brain’ power.” In other words, holiday crowds in combination with yet another chorus of “White Christmas” could mean you’re at high risk for making bad purchasing decisions.

As one of the four witnesses called before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss the legal issues in the Trump impeachment, I’d say the study explains a lot about Congress’ vote on Wednesday. The crescendo of impeachment noise and the chaos of partisan bickering created a perfect atmosphere for Congress to make a hasty decision.

In my testimony, I criticized four of the possible articles of impeachment for lacking critical elements under the criminal code and case law. I said I thought two articles could legitimately be brought: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the two articles the House ultimately decided on. But I strongly encouraged the committee to take more time to develop a record to support the claims. Instead, the committee forged ahead.

I suppose the rush should have been expected. We saw a similar move 21 years ago, almost to the day, with Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Politicians just love to check off their to-do lists at year’s end.

What’s most disturbing is that the Democrats know the current record of evidence falls well short of a viable case for conviction in the Senate. Nevertheless, they opted to move the impeachment by Christmas rather than build a stronger case for a vote in early 2020.

Why? The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that finding by Zhu and Chae: A chaotic atmosphere makes for bad decision-making.

Among the worst decisions made by House Democrats is this: They burned through three months of investigating without even attempting to compel the testimony of key witnesses like national security advisor John Bolton. Instead, they based impeachment charges on a record largely based on the inferences of third-party witnesses.

As a result, they’re left with a record that requires a senator to decide every contested fact in the way least favorable to the president in order to establish an impeachable act. However, there are three direct conversations that directly contradict such a conclusion.

For one thing, the language of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky does not state a clear quid pro quo. You have to infer that his request for a favor implied a penalty if it wasn’t fulfilled.

And then there’s the testimony about Trump’s phone calls with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both contain express denials of any quid pro quo. One can reasonably question the veracity of such an assertion during the calls, and that’s why the testimony of first-hand witnesses would have been so important. Yet the House made no real effort to hear from key administration figures, including Bolton, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump counsel Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Not only has the House been curiously passive in seeking to force such testimony; it actually withdrew one of the few subpoenas facing a court ruling in the case of Charles Kupperman, Trump’s former deputy national security advisor. Kupperman was willing to testify and simply wanted court review, but the House strangely withdrew its request that he testify.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam B. Schiff has said that requesting courts to compel testimony would take too long. But courts can sometimes work quickly. In a critical case involving Richard Nixon’s impeachment, it took just three months to go from a ruling by the District Court to a final ruling of the Supreme Court. Nixon lost and then resigned.

Given the momentousness of impeachment, taking time to build a strong case is worth some delays. Moreover, courts have already agreed to decide other cases involving the president, including the challenge over whether Trump can be compelled to turn over tax and financial records. That puts the House in the awkward position of impeaching a president for obstruction before the Supreme Court rules on key issues.

I vehemently disagree with the sweeping privilege and immunity claims made by the Trump White House. However, presidents including Barack Obama have stood behind the shield of executive privilege and have gone to court rather than turn over evidence. Both Nixon and Clinton were able to challenge such questions and receive final decisions from the Supreme Court (which ruled against them).

In racing to meet its artificial deadline of impeaching by Christmas, the house submitted a case guaranteed to fail. Rather than wait a couple months to move forward with a greatly enhanced case, the House prefers to grab what it’s got on the shelf and run with it. It is the very profile of the impulse shopper — and the impulse impeacher.

Jonathan Turley is a professor of public interest law at George Washington University. He has testified as a constitutional expert in both the Clinton and the Trump impeachment hearings.

297 thoughts on “The Impulse Buy Impeachment: How The Democrats Yielded To The Holiday Frenzy Over Facts”

  1. I think there’s a good chance that Pelosi had no intention of actually impeaching/trying the president, or trying to have him removed. There is something else going on here, and I’m not sure what. I don’t think what motivated them is holiday chaos, I think it’s a (poor) strategy to make the senate look bad, too. If they were trying not to do this right, that would explain a lot.

  2. DBB, this isn’t the past, this is now. And it looks like this could set a standard for the future when republicans control the house and they decide to do something as stupid as this.

  3. Bythebook. I almost didn’t want to take the time to reply to your post. But I feel compelled to. A do nothing House. Who are you kidding? Anything Pelosi and company passed was strictly done along party lines. These were bills rammed through the house because of a democrat majority. These bills were not sent to the senate by the house, they were sent by the democrats.

    1. Bob, of the approx 400 bills passed by the House, approx 2/3 had Bi-partisan support in the House.
      The House sent those bills to the Senate. The House members – unlike the Senate, and the President – were elected by an overwhelming majority of American voters.
      As to history, congressional stonewalling began in the Obama years when filibusters increased exponentially over any previous period in our history, while GOP House members also lined up on strict party lines. By contrast, W received significant Democratic support for most of his major legislative efforts.

      Look it up, a good practice before posting wrong information, as you have done twice now.

  4. More of the same avoidance from the usual low wattage suspects. I’m sure we all appreciate mespo’s declaration to not waste his time insulting me, and of course we all expect Karen to soon join in by denouncing me for ad hominem attacks.

    Good times!

  5. Bythebook: so I’ll repeat it.

    Ignorant people like you have repeated all types of myths like “the world is flat”, “the world revolves around me”, “I am god”, “Hillary will be President”

    no one tries to educate you because eventually you will die and no one will recall your babbling incoherently your absurdities

  6. Predictably, the Presidents usual defenders here avoided countering my first response to this thread, so I’ll repeat it.

    Turley continues blaming the Democrats for not fighting to the SC to hear the “1st person” witnesses – Sandlot said he discussed the matter 20+ times with Trump – even though that would likely stretch on past the next election, but at no time criticized Trump for withholding them and any witnesses he could. Even if one agrees with his criticism of the Democrats, that is a dead issue now and one questions his alleged neutrality for writing this pointless column. The GOP leadership in the Senate now holds the cards, and if Turley cares about a meaningful hearing should be advocating for their calling these witnesses. A large majority of Americans want them called and it is hard to defend not wanting them to.

    I await those here registering agreement on what should be a no brainer for those not avoiding the facts.

    1. “Predictably, the Presidents usual defenders here avoided countering my first response to this thread, so I’ll repeat it.”

      **************

      Self-declared winners are a joyous group but the finest of these is one who stands utterly defeated intellectually but swears and be damned that no one has bested him and doubles down. Here’s the visual depiction of the Clown Prince of Sophistry, our own Anon1/bythebook, declaring yet again ’tis but a scratch.”

    2. The GOP leadership in the Senate now holds the cards, and if Turley cares about a meaningful hearing should be advocating for their calling these witnesses.

      The Senate always held the cards that mattered.

      Pelosi sent Schiff and Nadler out on a fishing expedition and the only thing they caught was the negative attention of the American people. No grave impeachment inquiry should begin with a lie. Schiff’s parody was Danny Devito’s Wormwood character warmed over. Nadler’s hearing was so dull, even he had trouble staying awake. In the end, this shamockery exposed the Democrats for the abusive, power-mad ingrates that they are. And true to their projectionist form, they impeached President Trump on two counts that ironically Pelosi and the Democrats should be charged with: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress.

      So now Democrats want to try fishing in the Senate, but they don’t own the boat. They just know the big one is out there somewhere, if only someone would believe them. The big one is out there; Durham.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

      1. Unlike Olly, who has admitted he’s so in the tank for Trump that he doesn’t want to hear the evidence, most Americans do want to hear the witnesses.

        1. most Americans do want to hear the witnesses.

          Where have I heard that before…that’s right, a majority of Americans wanted Clinton for president too. And yet you got President Trump, a roaring economy, record low unemployment, conservative judicial appointments, Horrowitz and Durham/Barr lurking in an election year.

          May your 2020 be as fruitful as 2019 has been. With an emphasis on has been, as in your latest ID.

          Bwahahahahaha!

          1. If a majority of Americans wanted Clinton a majority would have voted that way. Buit 40% voted independently against Clinton and the rest of the votes that made up the 55% majority were provided by the GOP minus RINO faction.

            As far as the mystical subjective humpty dumpty gadziilion votes attributed to every state from here to yonder but mostly California… do you really want to claim that much of a loss of income from legal votes?

            If that had been even a pittance of the amount claimed California would be screaming for an extra census or some sort of adjustment since the three million mentioned comes to 4 more Representatives assuming they were all legal citizens and legal voters.

            But not one word, complaint etc had surfaced before during or after Clinton’s unfounded claim.

            No way California would not have gone after that many votes and that much of an increase in funding

            However it makes an urban myth right up there with balanced budget with a surplus and the majority wants this or that and other such fairy tails from the mystic world.

            But try and prove it objectively.

    3. The GOP leadership in the Senate now holds the cards, and if Turley cares about a meaningful hearing should be advocating for their calling these witnesses. A large majority of Americans want them called and it is hard to defend not wanting them to.
      ____________________________________________________

      Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

      The assumption that witnesses were withheld because they would incriminate Trump is not a very intelligent position to take.

      Trump may have withheld the witnesses because they have information that clears Trump. Trump may have been waiting for the Democrats to make complete fools of themselves and then release the evidence that clears him. If that is what he is doing when the evidence comes out a lot of voters will think Trump was always right when he said the Democrats are engaging in a witch hunt and a coup attempt.

      It is not very bright of the Democrats to go into a trial with no clear knowledge of what the opposition testimony might be.

      1. OK Jinn, so I take it you want to hear the witnesses who were withheld be called in the Senate hearing. Me too, and let the chips fall where they may. I think that’s why most Americans want to hear them – the truth.

        1. “OK Jinn, so I take it you want to hear the witnesses who were withheld be called in the Senate hearing”

          _______________________________________________

          No I hope they won’t but I’m afraid they will. And with the Republicans calling the shots if any do testify it will be the ones with the most convincing exculpatory evidence. Any with incriminating evidence will not.

          In my opinion the Dems should have censured two months ago and moved on. Pursuing Ukrainegate (and Russiagate) has been incredibly stupid and has only benefited Trump.

  7. Anonymous, you hit the nail on the head. No Republican in their right mind would vote to pass bills like these. I’m happy these bills are languishing in the senate.

    1. That’s fine Bob, but the point is unraveling the big lie propagated by Trump and picked up by his indiscriminate supporters that Pelosi is leading a do nothing House.

      1. bythebook the point is unraveling the big lie….

        the point is you are welcome to believe that jews must be exterminated, whites are the arian race and there was no killing in Russia or China under Mao and Stalin. Alas, no one really cares about you believing lies because soon no one will remember you even existed so work on one or the other: truth or irrelevancy. The choice is yours

  8. “DEMOCRATIC SENATORS ARE TWEETING PHOTOS OF THE GIANT PILE OF ‘DEAD’ HOUSE-PASSED BILLS ON MITCH MCCONNELL’S DESK”

    BY BLAKE DODGE ON 12/18/19 AT 1:45 PM EST

    https://www.newsweek.com/democratic-senators-tweeting-photos-giant-pile-dead-house-passed-bills-mitch-mcconnell-desk-1478047

    “In a press conference meant to highlight the “legislative graveyard” Tuesday morning, Stabenow said that the American people expect Congress to pass legislation “that will improve their lives and improve the lives of their families.”

    “Unfortunately, though, that is not what’s happening because the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard,” she added.

    McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to Newsweek emails and calls requesting comment about why he hasn’t brought the packages to a vote in his chamber and whether he intends to in the foreseeable future.”

    1. +..........................................................................................................................................................................W says:

      Anonymous – according to several Republican House members, Pelosi “poison pilled” those bills before they went over. I idea was to make it look like the House was working hard and the Senate was not playing ball. Nancy put something in each bill which made it impossible for the Republicans to pass it.

    2. But they can’t name a single one or state when it was passed in the House or sent to the Senate. Asi Pues. It’s like Obamacare. 1500 blank pages. to compliment the same number of blank minds.

  9. Enigma,
    Do you have specifics as to what “criminal conduct” Trump is still engaging in?
    Also, you must mean past crimes as well, since you state that Trump is continuing with his “criminal conduct”.
    What crimes has he been convicted of, or charged with?
    And which ones is he continuing to engage in?

  10. This impeachment comes to us from the Paul Singer funded Steele dossier , and closely associated with Singer in these machinations are the Epstein lawyers Jay Lefkowitz and others of Kirkland Ellis and of Roger Hertog of the Tikvah fund. If this indeed is a coup as Judicial Watch argues, it is not one of the ‘Deep State’, but of the liberal interventionist never Trump billionaires

    Some argue this is a criminal enterprise of collusion and election interference.

    https://wesleyancovenant.education/docs-pdfs/tikvah-wexner-epstein-umc.pdf

      1. +..........................................................................................................................................................................W says:

        Anonymous – so far we know the DNC, Hillary Clinton and the FBI funded the Steele Dossier. That does not mean others were not involved.

        1. Singer supported Rubio, I think, against Trump. And he no longer retained Fusion GPS after it was clear that Trump had the nomination in hand.
          Steele was hired to do the Russian opposition reasearch on Trump several weeks after Singer was out of the picture.
          The record and the timing don’t support the claim that Singer had anything to do with the Russian Dossier.
          It took over a year to prove that the DNC and the Hillary Campaign Fund paid for it.
          The recorded it as “legal fees” for Perkins Coie, which in turn paid Fusion GPS, which in turn paid Steele.
          Trump should have learned something from this; if you want to conceal your part in getting dirt on a political opponent, don’t do it directly.
          Have the RNC pay a law firm to pay a firm that does opposition research and record it as “legal fees”.
          Then have the law firm tell that other firm to hire an foreign agent to go dig up the dirt in yet another foreign country on the political opponent.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-six weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – David, you don’t seem to remember that you owe me forty citations. Do you recall that? Is your reasoning working? Can you read what you owe me?

    1. What about society? I find the worst thing that can happen is the continuing reliance on sociallism or for that matter sociology instead of as the Swedes found out going back to having a social conscious. In that vast stack of blank ages can a social consciousness be found? Not to my knowledge? DACA is proof of that.

  11. I’m wondering just how slick a snake Pelosi is. Thinking about it the socialists have been more trouble than they are worth and they are sure enough heading for a fall by one means or another. Pelosi won’t want to die with them and she does have that talent for buying people with that money she gets for selling seats on committees and the like then using them to get her crew elected. No different than a pit full of vipers. BUT….

    Suppose whe sees a chance in the inevitable With Lamb and Tulsi and a few others and can bring enough what you might call moderate socialists of convenience or SINOs.and can get hooked in with the also inevitable Indpendent Constitutional Democrats and brings just enough of them over at one time to make the Dinos or Democrats in name only bad goods not sellable..

    Does she care if she’s off the hook and gets to keep her millions? Pelosi? She hasn’t got a decent moral ethical bone in her body that didn’t come out of a Botex bottle. She’ll sell them out in a Snobby Knob Hill Second.

    Which leaves Schumuckley Putz as the fall guy, and Pelosi as the Grand Old …. something or another of the Neo something or anothers.

    Unless she gets bushwhacked by the New Democrats along the way.

    I’m liking this story more and more.

    Bonus is she can turn the squat into mud and it’s just theat schimple or is it Schiffel?

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