As we approach the public segment of the House Democrats’ impeachment parade, there are two monster head fakes aimed at bamboozling the viewing public: (1) House Intel chairman Adam Schiff’s likening the House process to the grand jury and (2) the Democrats (and a few stray Republicans) insisting that the utterly phony “whistleblower” remain anonymous as protection from harm.
Grand Jury Games. Adam Schiff tells us that closed-door sessions follow the grand jury process. But the Schiff process strays from grand jury practice in several key aspects. First, grand jurors are allowed to ask their own questions — even if the prosecutor managing the process doesn’t wish them to do so. This was done in 1872 with the Boss Tweed corruption scandal by what lawyers call a “runaway grand jury”; and again in 1974, when the Watergate grand jury was prepared to indict Richard Nixon on four counts before Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford fully pardoned him a month later, and the grand jury was disbanded. In his memoir, The Right and the Power (1976), Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski saw a fair trial as impossible due to massive, unprecedented pre-trial publicity — the factor that moved President Ford to pardon his predecessor. Of indictment, Jaworski wrote, “The grand jury, I knew, would indict him in a minute. But could he receive a fair trial, a constitutional right?”
Second, all grand jurors have equal rights. The Handbook for Federal Grand Jurors specifies the rights of grand jurors (my emphasis):
Each juror has equal rights and responsibilities, and each is entitled to be satisfied with the evidence before being called upon to vote. No juror has the right to dismiss a witness or to shut off proper discussion if other jurors wish to pursue the matter further.
The handbook further states,
Every grand juror has the right to express his or her view of the matter under consideration, and grand jurors should listen to the comments of other grand jurors before making up their minds. Only after each grand juror has been given the opportunity to be heard will the vote be taken.
Put simply, neither as foreman nor as prosecutor would Adam Schiff be able to run his show the way he has conducted the Intelligence Committee hearings, running roughshod over Republican members who wish to cross-examine witnesses and have other witnesses testify.
Protection Racket. Mark Zaid, the “coup has started” lawyer who represents the “whistleblower,” informed the FBI about threats made against his client. One threat, reported on October 2, was found “not credible” by the FBI. There have been numerous threats. Yahoo reports that threats they investigated show no physical harm intended. These are low-level individual threats, far less worrisome than threats from the mob, terrorists, or drug cartels. U.S. marshals have a Federal Witness Security Program, which since establishment in 1970 has successfully protected over 7,500 witnesses and over 9,500 witness family members; there have been over 10,000 criminal convictions, with an 89 percent conviction rate.
For low-level threats, there is the precedent of Clinton independent counsel Ken Starr, as recounted in his memoir, Contempt (2018). In 1998 and 1999, Starr and his family received 24-hour protection from a team of deputy U.S. marshals. Two of his children were of college age, but the youngest was in school. She and her parents were temporarily trapped by demonstrators one morning inside the Starr home in McLean, Virginia (near the CIA). The protests continued for days, until demonstrators were dispersed. The culprits? A mob of screaming left-wing fanatics led by Michael Moore. Intuitively, Schiff’s “whistleblower” needs Starr-level protection, or even less.
Bottom Line. No president, ever, should face the Orwellian “some House jurors are more equal than others” kangaroo court. And no president, ever, should be impeached — let alone removed from office — by “Anonymous.”
John C. Wohlstetter is author of Sleepwalking With the Bomb (2014).