Former federal prosecutor tears apart Ted Cruz's transparent scheme to turn the Senate trial into a partisan mess
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have been debating whether witnesses should or shouldn’t be presented at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas made a “witness reciprocity” argument, suggesting that witnesses be presented in pairs: one Democratic witness for every Republican witness. But former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance stresses in a Washington Post op-ed that there is no such thing as “witness reciprocity” in the U.S. justice system.
“We’re not going to have a one-sided kangaroo court,” Cruz asserted. “Instead, we’re going to respect reciprocity. What does that mean? That means, if the prosecution gets a witness, the defense gets a witness. If the prosecution gets two, the defense gets two. That means, if the prosecution gets to call John Bolton, then the president gets to call Hunter Biden.”
But Vance, who now teaches law the University of Alabama and is often featured as a legal analyst on MSNBC, explains in her op-ed why Cruz’s argument is flawed.
“The temptation to secure the testimony of key witnesses is understandable, but ‘witness reciprocity’ is not how our system of justice works — and for sound reasons,” Vance notes. “It might seem like a good idea at first: treat each side equally and give them the same number of witnesses. But in our system, evidence must be relevant to the charges or issues at hand before it can be introduced in a trial.”
Vance goes on to explain what would or wouldn’t be relevant in Trump’s Senate trial.
“Some people might want to hear testimony from adult film star Stormy Daniels during the impeachment trial,” Vance observes. “Some might want to see Trump’s tax returns. Neither will happen, because the testimony is not relevant to the charges on which the House impeached him.”
The two articles of impeachment that Trump was indicted on by the U.S. House of Representatives were abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — and any testimony from witnesses during his trial, according to Vance, must be relevant to those articles.
“Trump should have the right, even if he chooses not to exercise it, to call witnesses at trial whose testimony helps establish that he didn’t commit the offenses alleged in the articles of impeachment or that they’re not impeachable acts,” Vance notes. “But he shouldn’t be able go far beyond that. He couldn’t, for instance, argue that the Ukrainians weren’t entitled to military aid from the United States. That’s irrelevant, because Congress had already voted to send it to them.”
What former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, did or didn’t do in Ukraine, according to Vance, is irrelevant to the two articles of impeachment against Trump.
“Biden’s conduct has no bearing on whether the president withheld witnesses and evidence from Congress, obstructing their investigation,” Vance explains. “Biden’s testimony wouldn’t make it more or less likely that Trump abused his power or obstructed Congress. It is simply not germane.”
Vance wraps up her op-ed by emphasizing that it would be unwise for Democrats to go along with any “witness reciprocity” argument from Republicans.
“Democrats should not take up a Republican offer, if it is made, to play a game of witness reciprocity,” Vance writes. “Trial evidence is not about tit for tat. While the John Boltons of this administration can offer relevant, first-hand information regarding Ukraine and the president’s conduct and must testify if the proceedings are to have any integrity, the Hunter Bidens of the world cannot.”