We’ve all seen this before. With dizzying legal legerdemain, defense lawyer Johnny Cochran transformed the 1995 trial of OJ Simpson into the trial of Detective Mark Fuhrman. It was the jurisprudential equivalent of David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear – with the added attraction of making the Eiffel Tower appear in its place. It was a bold trick that wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. That little masterpiece of distraction that gave Simpson his get-away-with-murder-free card was made possible by Cochran’s tactic together with a silly, star-struck judge, a staggeringly incompetent prosecution team and a jury chock-a-block with morons, all compliments of the same species of infuriating bad luck and dirty dealings that made Donald Trump president of the United States.
With Cochranesque impertinence, Senator Rand Paul vows to recreate such a miracle, by forcing a vote on the Senate floor calling Hunter Biden as a witness in the trial of Donald Trump. To be sure, Paul says he will only do this if senators agree to call any witnesses at all. Think of it as a kind of revenge, a little man’s tit for tat. No one yet knows for sure if witnesses will be called, but if they are, look for Hunter Biden to be among them. Given the partisan nature of this process so far, it’s difficult to imagine it being otherwise.
And don’t be surprised if some other Republican senator sees Rand Paul’s Hunter Biden bid and raises him an Adam Schiff, or a whistleblower, or a Joe Biden, or any of another half dozen cockamamie “witnesses” called. In any case, it all may turn out to be a nihilistic gesture. Paul’s trick may not be as clever as he thinks, not by half. No one knows what kind of harm such witnesses could do to the Republican cause, let alone the Democratic cause, if any. After all, it’s the first rule of any trial lawyer to never ask a question he or she doesn’t already know the answer to, and never call a witness if he or she doesn’t know in advance if the witnesses will be a help or a hindrance. Such tactics could be dangerous. Such tactics could backfire spectacularly. The witnesses may very well make the Republicans look like fools. There is much material for them to do so.
Whatever the case, an important takeaway from all this is that judicial proceedings, no matter how lofty or well-intentioned (or corrupt and misbegotten, for that matter) do not confer innocence. Again, think of the OJ Simpson trial. The best that can be hoped for is that justice will come from it, but all that is ever promised is a chance for justice.
Now that we know, thanks to Lev Parnas’ statements to Rachael Maddow, that Donald Trump knew everything about the details of the Ukraine extortion, the likelihood is greater than ever that Republicans will want confusing and irrelevant witnesses in order to render the process confused and irrelevant as best they can. Assuming, that is, any witnesses are called at all. Of course Trump is guilty. Trump is as guilty of the twin crimes of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as OJ Simpson is guilty of two murders. Whether or not the chance for justice will be fulfilled in the actualization of justice remains to be seen.