“What’s so remarkable is that with so few witnesses and so few documents, we were able to prove so much,” a casually dressed Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told me during an interview for the latest episode of “Cape Up” just before he flew back to his district for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday recess. “With very little, we saw the president put his own interests above ours, above our national security and election integrity.”
“We proved that the president, from as early as the beginning of 2019, was running this shakedown scheme with the Ukrainians where he was insisting that they had to … conduct investigations to receive U.S. aid, and investigations [into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter]] that would only benefit the president,” Swalwell said in his Capitol Hill office. “We saw, through Dr. Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. [Alexander] Vindman, that there was a connection between investigations and the Ukrainians getting a White House meeting. And then, of course, through [U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon] Sondland, we later learned, and [acting chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney, that it was also tied to Ukrainians getting the aid.”
Trump’s backers on Capitol Hill have made the argument with a straight face that the president was not afforded the ability to defend himself during the House proceedings. To believe that is to ignore how the White House blocked the testimony of key officials. If Trump didn’t do anything wrong, as they claim, why not let these folks swear to that under oath? And now that the actual Senate trial is going to happen, whether witnesses will be called remains an open question.
I asked Swalwell if an argument can be made that the president indeed got a fair trial even if witnesses don’t testify? The congressman, who sits on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said no. “America won’t get a fair trial if witnesses don’t testify,” said Swalwell. “And I think that’s what’s most important, is that both the president and Americans get a fair trial.” He also talked about why Lev Parnas, whose television interviews about the trove of documents released by House investigators, “really illuminates why the Senate should have relevant witnesses testify.”
Trump being Trump, a former reality television star who thrives on chaos and reportedly wants a made-for-TV courtroom drama, I’m not convinced that the president himself might not just burst through the Senate doors during the trial. Swalwell told me the thought had crossed his mind, too.
“There were moments during the impeachment inquiry in the House where part of me, every time the door opened,” Swalwell said with a chuckle, “I was wondering if the guy was gonna walk through and just bring the theatrics into the room, more into the room, in addition to what [he] had going for him with the Republican side.” Swalwell said we have to be prepared for such antics, but explained why he thought Trump would not go for the theatrics and show up.
“I don’t think that ultimately helps him because either he would be admitting what he did and saying, ‘I’m allowed to do that’ … or he would have to offer a defense that has contradicted everything he’s said in the past six months about this case,” Swalwell explained. “So, I think he ultimately does not appear.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Swalwell talk about a bunch of other things. He points out why Trump’s claim of executive privilege is “complete bulls---.” And then there’s the question everyone is wondering: Is he upset that he is not one of the House impeachment managers.
“It’s not about me, it’s about what the president did,” Swalwell told me. “And my focus is to do all I can to help that team that we have, that talented team that’s over in the Senate right now, convict and remove the president.”