Public hearings don’t make this impeachment drive any less of a farce

Americans at large finally get to see the House impeachment hearings starting Wednesday — but that doesn’t make this “inquiry” any less of a farce.

Democrats from Speaker Nancy Pelosi on down are open about their intentions here: The point now isn’t to examine the evidence so they can decide whether to impeach President Trump, but simply to sway public opinion against him.

And never mind that this course all but guarantees that the Senate won’t vote to convict him, and so remove him from office: Pelosi evidently only cares about 1) appeasing the Democratic base, which started demanding impeachment the day Trump won, and 2) dirtying up the president to boost the chances of beating him at the ballot box next November.

Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, have tried to make the coming hearings as scripted as possible: They’re only calling witnesses who’ve already testified in secret, or in some cases just releasing transcripts of that testimony.

In those secret hearings, Schiff time and again shut down Republican members’ questions — particularly anything that might lead to positive identification of the “whistleblower” who got this entire ball rolling (after meeting with Schiff’s staff).

Indeed, Democrats now refuse to have the whistleblower testify, even in secret — though Schiff at first publicly called for just that. Every sign is that he changed his mind because cross-examination is likely to reveal him to be a highly partisan Trump-hater, and might even suggest he colluded with Democrats across Washington to launch this fast-track impeachment.

The rules also limit Republicans to calling only witnesses OK’d by Schiff or the committee majority, after they provide extensive written justification. Unlike past House presidential impeachment proceedings, they give Trump’s lawyers no chance to present arguments or evidence of their own.

Democrats can argue that today’s Republicans would “abuse” any less-restricted role. But that just means they’d call witnesses who’d challenge the Democrats’ narrative, or bolster Trump’s account — which is the essence of any adversarial proceeding.

Why not let them call Hunter Biden, or even Joe? Of course Democrats insist it would just distract from “getting at the relevant facts” — because they’re insisting that the only relevant facts are those that make Trump look bad.

Most damning is the fact that Schiff & Co. have abandoned any effort to get former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify. He understandably sought a court ruling, because clear issues of executive privilege are at stake — and the Democrats immediately gave up.

That’s just plain nuts if they want to make a case strong enough to sway the Senate: Without question, Bolton knows more than anyone else (except Trump and, maybe, Rudy Giuliani) about the facts here. Schiff and Pelosi just want to get as quickly as possible to a full House vote on impeachment, because they already have the votes to win.

This is not what the Founders meant when they called impeachment a “political process”: That meant that deciding whether a president has abused his powers is an inherently political decision, not a matter of law.

No, Democrats are using impeachment as a partisan stunt — perverting the Constitution’s process for purely political purposes.

It’s a disgrace.

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