House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists the impeachment procedures adopted last Thursday are "the fairest possible." Don't believe it.
In truth, a provision slyly added at the last minute is all but certain to deprive President Donald Trump of the ability to defend himself. Expect a one-sided propaganda circus with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., acting as ringmaster.
Democrats are boasting about the "impeachment inquiry protections" offered to Trump, claiming they're the same as the rules devised for President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton. But that's a baldfaced lie. Section F, quietly devised by Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., stipulates that unless the president surrenders executive privilege -- a power even the Supreme Court has ruled is vital to his office -- he and his lawyers will be denied any ability to call or question witnesses.
House Democrats are behaving like thugs, twisting arms to get what the Constitution does not entitle them to demand.
The Judiciary Committee's Section F was triggered on Monday, when four White House officials refused to show up for Schiff's grilling because Trump and the Justice Department instructed them to stay away. It is the president's right to do that to protect executive privilege. Schiff immediately called these four officials "first-hand witnesses to serious misconduct." That's typically Schiff -- rushing to judgment without hearing any evidence. Expect more of that when the hearings go public in mid-November.
Pelosi defended the House decision to drag out their investigation of the president with formal public hearings, saying "if we don't have a system of checks and balances, we might as well all just elect a president and go home." With all due respect, Madam Speaker, impeachment was never intended to be a part of the routine checks and balances between Congress and the executive. That's what the president's veto power and Congress' override are for. Impeachment was reserved for those rare moments when a president actually may have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors."
It's tragic to see Democrats turning impeachment into a tool to discredit a president merely because he belongs to a different party or they find him objectionable. Allow it to happen once and it could happen again and again, giving the party that controls the House the power to undo presidential elections routinely.
Most presidents facing reelection would be doomed by the rigged House spectacle about to begin. But Trump sees that he can overcome the impact of these televised hearings by going directly to the public himself. He said he's tempted to hold a "fireside chat" with the American people and read the transcript of his controversial July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.
Trump's medium is television, and no one is better. New York Times author James Poniewozik, who is no Trump fan, argues in a recent book that Trump doesn't just appear on television; he owes his rise to television.
Compared with Trump, Schiff and his star witnesses are not very telegenic. Typical are demoted Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, acting Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and State Department careerist George Kent. These bureaucrats, reeking of self-importance, are convinced that they know more about foreign policy than the president. They're dripping with disdain for him and the people who elected him.
Meanwhile, Trump shows how to maximize television audiences. In a mere nine-minute Oval Office speech defending the needs for border security, he pulled in a whopping 43 million viewers, ratings that Trump-haters like sleazebag lawyer Michael Cohen and former FBI Director James Comey couldn't touch.
Will Trump win the ratings war against the House Democrats and their witnesses? With a Senate conviction and removal from office highly unlikely, because real evidence of wrongdoing is lacking, the only goal of House impeachment is to damage the president and make him unelectable in 2020. Democrats shouldn't count on that. They'll easily win a vote to impeach Trump, but they're likely to lose where it really counts: in the court of public opinion.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her at email@example.com.