During the first public testimony in the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, one of the Republicans who questioned Ambassador William Taylor (top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine) and State Department official William Kent on Wednesday was attorney Steve Castor — who tried to discredit their testimony. But according to some well-known legal experts, he didn’t do a good job.
Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower’s complaint that during a July 25 phone conversation, he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Castor, during his questioning on Wednesday, tried to make Hunter Biden look bad because of his involvement with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma — and according to Georgetown University law professor Carrie Cordero, Castor’s Biden-related questioning was an ineffective smokescreen that offered “no actual defense” of Trump’s “abuse of office.”
One of the Trump allies who hoped to see the Ukrainian government investigate the Bidens was Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Castor tried to defend Giuliani during his questioning of Taylor, asking, “This irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”— to which Taylor responded, “It’s not as outlandish as it could be, I agree.”
In other words, Castor admitted that Giuliani’s actions on behalf of Trump were “outlandish” — which is hardly a robust defense of Trump or his allies.
What the Republican counsel’s use of much of his time on Hunter Biden and Burisma tells me, is that his members know there is no actual defense to the facts, this morning’s powerful witnesses, and the central act of abuse of office.
— Carrie Cordero (@carriecordero) November 13, 2019
Steve Castor: "This irregular channel of diplomacy it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”
Ambassador Taylor: "It’s not as outlandish as it could be — I agree."
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 13, 2019
Bill Taylor laughed when the GOP counsel asked him if the irregular policy channel is "not as outlandish as it could be." Then concedes that it could possibly be more outlandish.
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) November 13, 2019
When Asha Rangappa (a former FBI special agent) tweeted, “is Steve Castor really the best lawyer the GOP could get?,” CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti responded, “to be fair to him, he doesn’t have much to work with.
Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare and a legal analyst for CNN, tweeted that Castor “generally faltered” on Wednesday and “all in all….. was a train wreck for the GOP.”
Preet Bharara, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, tweeted, “I don’t believe Mr. Castor is a former prosecutor. Does it show?” And writer Matt Naham, in an article for Law & Crime, notes that Castor “has largely worked behind the scenes for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since 2005.”
Castor had a few minutes in which he found his footing while drawing out Kent's concerns about Burisma. Not really relevant to impeachment, but he had some momentum. But before and after, he faltered. All in all, that was a trainwreck for GOP.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) November 13, 2019
I don’t believe Mr. Castor is a former prosecutor. Does it show?
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) November 13, 2019
Is Steve Castor really the best lawyer the GOP could get??
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) November 13, 2019
To be fair to him, he doesn't have much to work with. https://t.co/fLQYqBqfGR
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) November 13, 2019
The second day of public impeachment hearings is set for this Friday, November 15, with testimony from Marie Yovanovitch (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine).
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However, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg on Thursday proposed a plan to counter this kind of misdirection: Going after Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose shady dealings with world leaders have so far escaped significant scrutiny.
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