On Tuesday, House Democrats launched a new demand for the Senate’s nascent impeachment trial of President Donald Trump: White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who is helping to lead the president’s prolific legal defense team, must either disclose any pertinent information he has about Democrats’ substantive impeachment claims or otherwise be dismissed as a Trump defense lawyer at trial.
“President Donald Trump’s lead impeachment lawyer, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, was a central witness to many of the facts of the case against Trump, House Democrats argued Tuesday, demanding that the Cipollone disclose any firsthand knowledge and warning that his role ‘threatens to undermine the integrity of the pending trial,’” Politico reported.
“You may be a material witness to the charges against President Trump, even though you are also his advocate,” House Democrats’ impeachment managers wrote in a letter to Cipollone, the outlet noted. “[A]t a minimum, you must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with the evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the President’s legal advocate so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases,” the impeachment managers continued.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been a consistent defender of the president’s throughout the entirety of Democrats’ partisan impeachment push, is having none of it. The junior senator from Texas, a formerly prolific constitutional attorney who clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, blasted the Democratic demand in no uncertain terms. Cruz called the demand an “absurd request” on Facebook:
Democrats’ opening salvo in impeachment: they demand Trump get rid of his lawyer, Pat Cipollone.
Unlike the House, the Senate will have a FAIR trial. That means we won’t deny the President his lawyer ON THE DAY the trial starts.
The Sixth Amendment provides the accused the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” Note that the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the prosecution; it protects only the accused. Under the standard put forth by the House Democrats today – that any potential fact witness cannot serve as counsel in the impeachment hearing – there is an obvious person who should be disqualified: Adam Schiff.
Schiff, it has been alleged, spoke directly with the so-called “whistle-blower” and may even have helped him draft the complaint that launched this entire impeachment.
So, maybe we should disqualify Schiff as a lawyer, and schedule him instead as a witness to explain his role in creating the “evidence” in this proceeding?
The Constitution affords no role for the impeachment trial prosecution to impose procedural demands upon the Senate itself. Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 says that the House “shall have the sole power of impeachment,” and Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 says that the Senate “shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” The obvious textual implication is that House members and Senate members, respectively, possess plenary authority to establish their own internal procedures for conducting the impeachment process.