After the public hearings of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump began Wednesday, Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) unleashed a fiery opening statement, blaming the proceedings on “Democrats’ scorched-earth war against President Trump” and a “carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.” While Nunes’s diatribe may have pleased the president and his supporters, at least one prominent Supreme Court litigator found the performance extremely underwhelming.
Former Acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal had some harsh words of criticism following Nunes’s remarks, specifically noting that the former dairy farmer was just repurposing the same arguments previously used to defend Trump against accusations of Russian collusion — despite vastly different circumstances.
“I think the President was not served well by Nunes’ opening. He’s like a bad high school football coach, running the same playbook because it worked last time,” Katyal said. “But Ukraine is [different] than Mueller. The accusers are Trump’s own Executive Branch employees, and it goes to Trump’s use of his awesome powers as President, not as a campaign person in 2016. That’s why Republicans have struggled so much to come up with a defense of Trump’s conduct.”
Drawing from his experience arguing before the Supreme Court, Katyal then explained why Nunes’s failure to address the problematic nature of Trump’s conduct may work against his intended objective.
“There’s another problem with Nunes’ statement It has zero acknowledgement that what Trump did was wrong. It reminds me of a bad Supreme Court advocate, hiding all the flaws in a case by pretending they just don’t exist,” he continued. “It lacks credibility. Everyone knows what he did was wrong, the question is simply if it is impeachable.”
Katyal also noted that Nunes did not reconcile the inherent incongruity of President Trump claiming he has done nothing wrong, while simultaneously refusing to allow those with knowledge of his conduct to provide testimony that would absolve him of wrongdoing.
“Nunes doesn’t explain why the President has been so afraid to let his Executive Branch officials go tell the truth to Congress. Instead, he has ordered them to stay silent. That itself is behavior fundamentally antithetical to the rule of law,” Katyal remarked, before reaching his conclusion. “But beyond the point that Trump’s stonewalling of the truth is itself an impeachable offense, there’s another question: Why is Trump so afraid to have his own folks testify and tell the truth to Congress?”
[Image via YouTube screengrab]
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