19 January 2020

Is Adam Schiff Guilty Of Perjury?

As the Impeachment Trial of President Trump gets underway, Congressman Adam Schiff, the leader of the House Managers arguing the case for impeachment on behalf of the House Democrats, submitted to the Senate his "Trial Memorandum" laying out his theory of impeachment and the case he will be arguing on its behalf.

The memorandum has just one problem: It's a lie. Many of of Congressman Shiff's allegations are simply and demonstrably not true.

It is to Schiff's benefit that the memorandum appears to not have been filed under penalty of felony, for if it were Schiff would be guilty of perjury, instead of merely lying to the Senate. Yet let there be no misapprehension here: Congressman Adam Schiff has without a doubt lied to the Senate as he has lied to the American people throughout this impeachment inquiry. The only thing standing between Schiff and a perjury charge is the status of the Trial Memorandum as not being sworn and subscribed to.

Lie #1: President Trump Never Accused Joe Biden Of Protecting Hunter Biden

In the memorandum, Congressman Schiff alleges Donald Trump accused Joe Biden of interfering with a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to protect Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that has figured prominently in Ukraine's history of political and corporate corruption and on whose Board of Directors Joe Biden's son Hunter has served.
One investigation concerned former Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr.—a political rival in the upcoming 2020 election—and the false claim that, in seeking the removal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor four years earlier, then-Vice President Biden had acted to protect a company where his son was a board member.
This is factually false: In the phone transcript released by the White House (and assessed as "accurate by Schiff impeachment witness Alex Vindman), President Trump merely refers to Joe Biden's now-viral video anecdote related to the Council on Foreign Relations bragging about having a Ukrainian prosecutor fired:
There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me. 
We must acknowledge one absolutely uncontestable fact: Joe Biden did brag about getting Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired. He was literally recorded on video making the boast:

Not only did Joe Biden boast about getting Viktor Shokin fired, but he boasted about using a $1 billion guarantee as leverage. Unlike the Trump phone transcript, Biden's remarks contain a clear "quid pro quo". 

We should also note that the Viktor Shokin himself has stated that he was told to back off an investigation of Burisma prior to being fired. Shokin has provided a sworn affadavit to this effect.

Moreover, Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma and the ethical implications for Joe Biden were covered in a lengthy July 1, 2019 New Yorker article on the Bidens and Joe Biden's third bid for the Presidency.
Several former officials in the Obama Administration and at the State Department insisted that Hunter’s role at Burisma had no effect on his father’s policies in Ukraine, but said that, nevertheless, Hunter should not have taken the board seat. As the former senior White House aide put it, there was a perception that “Hunter was on the loose, potentially undermining his father’s message.” The same aide said that Hunter should have recognized that at least some of his foreign business partners were motivated to work with him because they wanted “to be able to say that they are affiliated with Biden.” A former business associate said, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is good enough, at this level of politics, to keep you from doing things like that.”
Additionally, the New York Times reported in 2015 that Hunter Biden's directorship with Burisma posed a problem for the United States' policy on Ukrainian corruption:
But the credibility of the vice president’s anticorruption message may have been undermined by the association of his son, Hunter Biden, with one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies, Burisma Holdings, and with its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, who was Ukraine’s ecology minister under former President Viktor F. Yanukovych before he was forced into exile. 
Hunter Biden, 45, a former Washington lobbyist, joined the Burisma board in April 2014. That month, as part of an investigation into money laundering, British officials froze London bank accounts containing $23 million that allegedly belonged to Mr. Zlochevsky. 
The legacy media absolutely had been discussing Hunter Biden's relationship with Burisma and it's impact both on Joe Biden's handling of US foreign policy regarding Ukraine while Vice President and on his current Presidential bid. As the phone transcript states explicitly, President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy to look into these matters, as well as the background of Joe Biden's explicit and coercive insistence on Viktor Shokin's firing.

Lie #2: President Trump Did Not Deny Russian Interference In The 2016 Election

Congressman Schiff's next big lie is that Donald Trump asserted Ukrainian interference and not Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The second investigation concerned a debunked conspiracy theory that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 Presidential election to aid President Trump, but instead that Ukraine interfered in that election to aid President Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The problem Schiff has with this allegation is that, in the phone transcript, President Trump does not even mention Russian electoral interference, either to affirm or deny. Nor does President Trump even assert Ukrainian electoral interference.
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation .. I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible. 
Crowdstrike, it should be noted, is the cybersecurity firm who's highly questionable (and highly questioned) investigation of the 2016 DNC server "hack" helped fuel the Russian Collusion Hoax which was conclusively debunked by Robert Mueller's Special Counsel Investigation. (Full Disclosure: I and others concluded in 2017 that Crowdstrike's analysis of the DNC hack was flawed and that the hack itself was a hoax).

Further, while the extent to which the various claims surrounding the narrative of Russian interference and Russian collusion have been debunked is a matter of endless debate, it is logically absurd for Adam Schiff to assert that only one country could have interfered in the 2016 election in ways which are legally troubling. The historical fact is that Ukraine has been reported and has even admitted to attempting to influence the 2016 election. Shiff's claim that Robert Mueller's investigation disproved Ukrainian interference is also factually false, for the simple reason the Mueller Report did not even address Ukrainian interference--Ukraine was not part of the scope of Mueller's investigation.

Lie #3: President Trump Did Not Ask For A Public Statement On The Phone Call

Adam Schiff compounds his lies about the investigations President Trump requested by concocting fictional requirements imposed on Ukraine--chiefly, that the Ukrainian government would announce the requested investigations publicly.
Although these theories were groundless, President Trump sought a public announcement by Ukraine of investigations into them in order to help his 2020 reelection campaign.
This request is not made anywhere in the phone transcript. The mention of public announcement was actually made by Gordon Sondland, as the Trial Memorandum itself acknowledges in the supporting "facts", an inconvenient truth unceremoniously ignored by Adam Schiff in the actual body of the Trial Memorandum.

The Big Lie: That Any Malfeasance Ever Occurred

Many commentators have expressed measures of discomfort over President Trump's request for Ukraine to look into its actions surrounding the 2016 election as well as Hunter Biden's relationship with Burisma. However, all such discomforts are fundamentally questions of policy. They are matters over which people can and will legitimately disagree. While President Trump might regard the phone call as "perfect", many others, such as legal scholars Jonathan Turley and Andrew McCarthy, conclude otherwise. That is their right, and I do not propose to dispute their opinions here. 

Yet even Jonathan Turley largely concludes that there is no evidence of impeachable offense within the evidentiary record compiled by the House Democrats. Andrew McCarthy correctly points out that the Articles of Impeachment presented by the House Democrats do not contain an indictable offense.

President Trump is being impeached, yet there is exactly ZERO indication that any wrongdoing took place. Adam Schiff's fever dreams of a Trumpian conspiracy to damage Joe Biden's Presidential prospects are a tissue of lies, speculations, hearsay, and gossip. There is no actual evidence to support the charge. Previously I have described his effort as a "Clown World Impeachment" and this Trial Memorandum does nothing to alter that assessment.

Was it "wrong" for President Trump to request Ukraine investigate the Bidens and Burisma? From a perspective of policy, some will say that it was. (I am not one of them) Yet policy perspectives do not equate to wrongdoing, and policy disagreements are not either indictable or impeachable offenses. For Congressman Schiff to suggest that they are is, quite simply, an obnoxious and repugnant lie.

President Trump's legal team puts forward much of this exact argument in their respondent trial memorandum.
House Democrats’ novel conception of “abuse of power” as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective. It supplants the Framers’ standard of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” with a made-up theory that the President can be impeached and removed from office under an amorphous and undefined standard of “abuse of power.” The Framers adopted a standard that requires a violation of established law to state an impeachable offense. By contrast, in their Articles of Impeachment, House Democrats have not even attempted to identify any law that was violated. Moreover, House Democrats’ theory in this case rests on the radical assertion that the President could be impeached and removed from office entirely for his subjective motives—that is, for undertaking permissible actions for supposedly “forbidden reasons.” That unprecedented test is so flexible it would vastly expand the impeachment power beyond constitutional limits and would permanently weaken the Presidency by effectively permitting impeachments based on policy disagreements.
As President Trump's legal team makes clear, as Andrew McCarthy has argued, the articles of impeachment simply fail to articulate any actual offense, and certainly no impeachable offense. Not only does this fail to rise to the "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" standard of the Constitution, such historical record of impeachments as the United States possesses (Johnson in1868, Nixon in 1974, Clinton in 1998) shows that there should be at least some articulation of a statute violated. The articles of impeachment against Donald Trump have none.
We cannot conclude what Schiff might have uncovered had he conducted a proper impeachment inquiry, and disciplined himself to the task of building a proper case for impeachment. Perhaps he might have uncovered facts to support his charges of extreme corruption. Perhaps he might have revealed evidence to support the contention that Donald Trump jeopardizes national security or the national interest. Perhaps he might have uncovered proof of actual crimes. In a purely hypothetical realm, such things are not impossible, no matter how improbable they might appear in the current real world context.

Yet Adam Schiff did not perform a proper impeachment inquiry and did not build a proper case for impeachment. He gathered a series of outlandish, incendiary, factually problematic and in some cases factually false statements into a incoherent mess. In the mother of all rushes to judgement, he pushed the inchoate impeachment inquiry through two House Committees and onto the floor of the House without any regard for the truth.

Not only should the Senate vote to acquit President Trump of the Articles of Impeachment, they should pass a motion of censure against Adam Schiff and the House Democrats for pursuing this fact-free impeachment and for displaying such casual contempt for Congress, for the Constitution, and for the American people.

Updated to include discussion of President Trump's respondent Trial Memorandum

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