The impeachment hearings have been a sham. I won’t list all of the violations of historic protocols, procedures, and assumptions that have been made by the House of Representatives. In the last 50 years, we have seen the abuse of the term “presumption of innocence” in particular. Aside from the overwhelming partisan politics, the confusion has emerged from the government’s inability to determine whether the impeachment process is a political one or a legal one. Unfortunately, this ambiguity has benefited the actions of the Democrats and been damaging to the case of the Republicans and President in particular. There are also far-reaching implications of what I believe to be the Democrats ignoring the presumption of innocence for the country at-large. Let me explain.
First, you might want to decide for yourself whether the presumption of innocence is a legal term or a universal right. One source defines it this way:
Politicians who come under fire for abusing their office do not get a legal presumption of innocence. People only get the presumption of innocence if they are indicted and facing trial for crimes. The presumption of innocence is for criminal defendants, not presidents.
Don’t just take my word for it, consider what the U.S. Supreme Court has had to say: ‘The presumption of innocence, although not articulated in the Constitution, is a basic component of a fair trial under our system of criminal justice.’ The Supreme Court treats it as ‘an element of due process.’
On the other hand, there is this definition:
The Presumption of Innocence is a similar axiomatic standard that cannot be proven but is warranted because it must be assumed in order to maintain the right to personal liberty. When a person is accused of wrongdoing, we begin with presumption of innocence and put the burden of proof upon the accuser. We do this because we understand that liberty is fundamental to a moral landscape and it can only be defended by presuming the right to liberty for all persons.
The point that seems obvious to me is that the hearings can be identified as both legal and political; that a dual identification doesn’t stop the House from determining that the universal definition should apply to the impeachment hearings. But we won’t see that happening any time soon.
In fact, the Presumption of Guilt has been prevalent in high-profile hearings for a long time. One only needs to read the comments of Ted Kennedy about Robert Bork at his hearings for appointment to the Supreme Court:
Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.
In more recent years, we’ve seen the insulting and highly partisan treatment of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh in their hearings for consideration for the Supreme Court.
But, you may ask, what do those hearings have to do with the impeachment hearings? I believe that the abusive and highly partisan manner in which those hearings were conducted set the stage and created the climate for the current impeachment hearings.
Democrats realized right after Trump was elected, and even before, that they needed to find him “guilty” of something. They believed that his Presidency was illegitimate, simply because he was the person who was elected. Presumption of innocence was never even a consideration.
Ironically, only “presumptions” were presented by the witnesses at the House Intel Committee impeachment hearings. But their presumptions didn’t even rise to the level of presumptions! Here is a definition of presumption:
A conclusion made as to the existence or nonexistence of a fact that must be drawn from other evidence that is admitted and proven to be true.
Please note that none of those people who provided “evidence” on President Trump’s supposed misdeeds were based on facts or evidence proven to be true. This point is significant because, for one, they were providing assumptions, based on their emotions and their beliefs about what the President should be implementing as policy. To make the point more directly, they were colluding in a hit job on the President. The witnesses were under the illusion that they were the ones who should be setting policy, and that any policy that contradicted theirs was wrong and inappropriate.
The disturbing conclusions we can draw from these actions are as follows:
- Presumption of innocence is no longer relevant in government hearings.
- Emotions, experience, and opinions of accusers are superior measurements of a person’s guilt or innocence.
- Respect for the Presidency and its prerogatives, even as a co-equal branch of government, is threatened.
- The administrative bureaucracy is colluding with Congress to run the government.
I also wonder if there could be far-reaching concerns for our citizens about presumption of innocence, because if the government is prepared to ignore that axiom in the impeachment hearings, which are a political/legal process and is supported by legal and academic actors, what will prevent presumption of innocence from being ignored in other legal settings? With the current drift toward socialism, will society be subjected to a new premise: the presumption of guilt?
I think we all have reason to be concerned.Published in