Impeachment viewers exploded Saturday morning as the U.S. Senate laughed down former President Donald Trump‘s impeachment attorney, Michael van der Veen, over a statement that depositions should be done in his private Philadelphia law office rather than through another mechanism.
House impeachment managers suggested that depositions might help beef up their case against Trump. Questions were posited regarding whether such depositions could be done remotely.
“There are a lot of depositions that need to be happening,” van der Veen said. “Nancy Pelosi‘s deposition needs to be taken. Kama — uh, uh — Vice President — uh — Harris’s — uh — deposition absolutely needs to be taken. And, not by Zoom. None of these depositions should be done by Zoom. We didn’t do this hearing by Zoom! These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia. That’s where they should be done.”
Van der Veen’s pronunciation of the city was more akin to this: “Phil-EE-delphia.”
The Senate started laughing — audibly.
Van der Veen grew more emboldened by the laughter.
“I don’t know how many civil lawyers are here, but that’s the way it works, folks! When you want somebody’s deposition, you send a notice of deposition, and they appear at the place where the notice says! That’s civil process! I don’t know why you’re laughing! It is civil process! That is the way lawyers do it! We send notices of deposition . . . ”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is presiding, cut in with a call for order.
“I haven’t laughed at any of you,” van der Veen chided the deliberative body before him. “And there’s nothing laughable here.”
Reaction was immediate.
“Unfortunately for the criminal defense attorney, the laughter was not offered with him, but at him,” noted Colby Hall on Law&Crime’s sister site, Mediaite.
The word “Veen” began trending on Twitter.
“Obviously van der Veen forgot that it’s his client’s position that ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia,’ mocked George Conway.
Obviously van der Veen forgot that it's his client's position that "bad things happen in Philadelphia."
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 13, 2021
History Prof. Kevin M. Kruse added context:
The reason they're all laughing at you, Van Der Veen, is that in the Clinton impeachment trial, the testimony of witnesses was taken remotely on videotape and then played in the Senate.
No one had to go down to your office in Phillyaheedelphia. https://t.co/H8SDLQWKTa
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 13, 2021
Journalists Pat Kiernan and Kyle Griffin suggested that the sort of civil litigation with which van der Veen is apparently used to handling is nothing like an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate:
If Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen seems out of place, it’s not just because he’s new to the case. His firm focuses on car accidents and slip and fall injuries. Here’s one of his radio ads. pic.twitter.com/LUGKV3Qx2S
— Pat Kiernan (@patkiernan) February 13, 2021
Reminder: Trump defense lawyer Michael van der Veen is a personal injury lawyer.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 13, 2021
Journalist David Corn questioned van der Veen’s legal tactics as less than wise:
Van der veen wants to call @SpeakerPelosi as a witness? Nancy Pelosi on the stand would be marvelous…for the House impeachment managers.
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) February 13, 2021
Some, however, didn’t seem to mind the thought of depositions occurring in van der Veen’s office — for sarcastic reasons:
I will say this, van der Veen's office on Spruce Street has a lot more lunch options than Four Seasons Total Landscaping. https://t.co/sYSUmjJlXb
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) February 13, 2021
Van der Veen is correct, legally speaking, about how depositions generally occur in civil matters.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 30 outlines the process. It says, relevantly:
A party who wants to depose a person by oral questions must give reasonable written notice to every other party. The notice must state the time and place of the deposition and, if known, the deponent’s name and address. If the name is unknown, the notice must provide a general description sufficient to identify the person or the particular class or group to which the person belongs.
However, contrary to the core thrust of van der Veen’s argument against conducting depositions via Zoom, the federal rule also allows for depositions to be recorded and to be conducted remotely:
The parties may stipulate—or the court may on motion order—that a deposition be taken by telephone or other remote means. For the purpose of this rule and Rules 28(a), 37(a)(2), and 37(b)(1), the deposition takes place where the deponent answers the questions.
However, as Law&Crime has repeatedly pointed out, impeachment trials are not trials in a court of law. They are neither criminal nor civil proceedings. They are, at their core, political proceedings — and here, many “jurors” (Senators) have already made up their minds along ideological lines. To wit, CNN is reporting that calling witnesses at the impeachment trial “won’t change any minds” among most GOP senators “because they are resting on their procedural argument that there shouldn’t be a trial in the first place.”
quite the jury we have here pic.twitter.com/qTAzYl6ybl
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 13, 2021
[image via CNN screengrab]
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