As Democratic senators think ahead to question time, they might start formulating questions that perform one of five functions.
First are the questions that expose the lies:
- Why did you falsely state that Republicans were not allowed into the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility)?
- Why did you, Mr. Philbin, falsely say the Mueller report did not find “collusion," which is not a crime and Robert S. Mueller III specifically wrote would not be the purpose of his investigation? Didn’t he find massive evidence that Russia wanted to help Trump and Trump wanted the help?
- When you played the tape to accuse House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff of falsifying the July 25 call record, didn’t you hear him say this was not verbatim?
- Didn’t Trump reject the offer to participate in the impeachment? Can you identify a single material way in which this impeachment diverged from the procedures of previous impeachments? Should the president get to set the rules? Doesn’t the Constitution say the House can set all the rules?
- Did President Bill Clinton get to cross-examine witnesses as independent counsel Kenneth Starr was interviewing them, or is impeachment akin to an indictment where the defendant is not invited?
- Are you saying CrowdStrike was a legitimate source of inquiry? Hadn’t everyone with any knowledge of the subject told Trump it was ridiculous? Isn’t it Russian propaganda?
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky still hasn’t gotten his White House visit yet, right? Visiting on the sidelines at the United Nations isn’t the same, is it?
Second are the questions that obviously require new documents and witnesses. (I asked former prosecutor Joyce White Vance what questions she would ask. She wryly responded, “Why shouldn’t we hear from first-hand witnesses? Why shouldn’t we hear from first-hand witnesses? Why shouldn’t we hear from first-hand witnesses?”)
- Where are the witnesses to the July 25 call who said it was “perfect”?
- Why can’t we hear from John Eisenberg about why he stashed the July 25 call record in a super-secret server and said it was a mistake but left it there?
- What did the president’s asking President Zelensky about a false, Russian-backed conspiracy theory have to do with rooting out corruption in Ukraine? (This one comes from former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller.)
- Could John Bolton explain: Why Trump’s sudden interest in Ukraine corruption? Why did he tell the aides who heard about the “drug deal” to go to talk to the lawyers? Why was it contrary to U.S. interests to hold up aid, and why Trump didn’t care if it was? Could he tell us that the president was repeatedly told both the Biden investigation and the Crowdstrike conspiracy were bogus? Did you quit or get fired?
- Could Michael Duffey at the Office of Management and Budget and Robert B. Blair at the White House shed light on the origin and purpose of the holdup in aid?
- Mick Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo and then walked it back. Could he tell us why? Could he tell us if Trump directly ordered the hold-up in aid?
- Did Trump’s team ever make a case-by-case assessment of a claim of executive privilege to each document and witness’s testimony? Why did you never formally assert executive privilege?
- The House presented 10 reasons backed up by facts as to why the aid holdup was not for a proper purpose. Where is your rebuttal? Isn’t there a difference between holding up aid as an exercise of national security in broad daylight and doing it secretly to extort a foreign leader for political gain?
- Why can’t we get the documents that even you agree are non-privileged (or have been waived) and let Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rule on the rest?
Third are the questions that can be termed “So what?" :
- What difference does it make if Mr. Schiff mocked the president?
- What difference does it make if Democrats hate Trump?
- What difference does it make if Trump said “no quid pro quo” when in the same breath he said Zelensky needed to announce the investigations?
Fourth are the questions that expose the logical inconsistencies in the defense case:
- If Trump was concerned about corruption in Ukraine, why ask a private attorney to go investigate it and why focus Zelensky only on topics that benefited Trump politically?
- Isn’t it the job of U.S. law enforcement to investigate potential wrongdoing by Americans?
- How could you say it is corrupt to seek to oust a corrupt prosecutor, a move the U.S. government and the Western alliance supported? At the time Viktor Shokin was fired, he was not actually investigating Burisma, right?
- If Trump is concerned about adult children benefiting from their father’s name, why did he allow his sons to run his company during his presidency and give his unqualified children a place in his administration?
- How could Trump be interested in corruption when he only mentioned the Bidens and CrowdStrike and then released the money without any additional anti-corruption steps? Why did he release the funds without insisting on any additional burden-sharing by allies? Did a single White House official do anything new on corruption or burden-sharing with regard to Ukraine between July 25 and the date the aid was released?
Finally, here are the questions that go to “Holy cow, we cannot leave this guy in office!”:
- Regardless of what you say the president did with respect to Ukraine, will the president commit to not asking a foreign government to investigate his political opponents or otherwise intervene in the election going forward?
- Does the president intend to block all further subpoenas on the question of Ukraine for the remainder of his presidency?
- Will the president stop taking foreign policy advice from Rudolph W. Giuliani and Vladimir Putin?