As the House and Senate continue their bitter struggle over the coming impeachment trial of President Trump, a judge in the District of Columbia issued an opinion that was largely lost in the crush of New Years stories. The opinion could loom large in the Senate trial, however, and one line in particular, which states “the House clearly has no intention of pursuing” the witness, may be repeated like a mantra by the Trump defense team.
The witness was Charles Kupperman, a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton. Other than Bolton himself, Kupperman is one of the officials most likely to have direct knowledge of an alleged quid pro quo on aid to Ukraine. After subpoenaing him last fall, the House withdrew its request before the court could rule on compelling his testimony for the record. The House also decided not to subpoena Bolton or any other key witnesses in the administration.
Judge Richard Leon dismissed the case before New Years Eve with a hint of frustration, if not bewilderment, that the House did not seem interested in hearing from a possible eyewitness. Historically, that lack of attention in not only witnesses but also a triable case will remain one of the most baffling blunders of this impeachment.
When I testified in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, I cited this case in my criticism of the pledge by Democrats to impeach Trump by Christmas despite a very incomplete record. While I opposed some of the proposed articles of impeachment that were subsequently dropped by the panel, I said Trump could be legitimately impeached on abuse of power and obstruction of justice if the House could establish such violations. But the House refused to wait just a couple months to build a much stronger case to remove Trump. In the mad rush to push impeachment, Democrats could not have made it easier for his team.