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State Sen. Joe Pennacchio. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Pennacchio attacks impeachment inquiry

Senator mounts flawed criticisms of impeachment hearings

By Nikita Biryukov, November 22 2019 12:19 pm

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, one of President Donald Trump’s New Jersey re-election campaign chairmen, is following the Republican line on impeachment.

Pennacchio pointed to testimony given by Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, who said Trump told him “I want nothing, no quid pro quo”.

But that conversation, Sondland said, occurred after the White House learned of the whistleblower complaint over Trump’s allegedly conditioning military aid to Ukraine on investigations into the president’s political opponents.

At a separate point, the ambassador, a Trump appointee, testified he was concerned the incident surrounding the military aid was “a potential quid pro quo.” 

He also testified there was a clear quid pro quo on a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump that he said hinged on investigations Trump sought into his political opponents, chiefly former Vice President Joe Biden.

Pennacchio also claimed no witnesses who provided testimony had direct knowledge of the investigation into Biden’s son sought by Trump, but a memo containing an edited transcript of a phone call between Trump and Zelensky showed Trump sought such an investigation.

The senator also claimed the hearings deprived Trump of his rights.

“Hearings devoid of fairness and due process,” Pennacchio said. “The witch-hunt directed by Adam Schiff began in a secret bunker, was followed by selective leaks, and gave no ability to the President to call witnesses or confront the leaker, (Whistleblower) while gaveling down Republicans during their questioning.”

Republicans have echoed these claims, but they were as shaky then.

Some GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the impeachment inquiry against the president, sit in on the meetings in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, which is used to discuss classified information.

Impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, and Trump is not guaranteed the same constitutional rights, including the right to face his accusers, he would have were this a criminal trial.

Further, the U.S. Senate conducts the impeachment trial. The House inquiry is better compared to a prosecutor deciding whether or not to file charges.

Republicans and Democrats on the relevant committees are provided equal time to question witnesses.

Pennacchio also claimed the press was acting at the behest of congressional Democrats, though he failed to point to any examples.

He also claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was being forced into the inquiry by the progressive House Democrats.

“Nancy Pelosi is a hostage to the radical left in Congress,” he said. “She is willing to drive her Caucus off a cliff because she lacks a political spine and a moral compass to challenge them.”

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