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Republicans must stick with the facts on impeachment

Former National Security Council Director for European Affairs

Former National Security Council Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman arrives to review his testimony before a closed-door interview in the impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

On Tuesday, the Federalist ran an article by Jim Hanson titled "Alex Vindman Is Living, Breathing Proof That The Deep State Exists, And It Is Corrupt."

The Federalist is a much-needed addition to the ranks of Beltway-based media organizations, and Jim Hanson is one of its reliable essayists. But it is crucial for conservatives to avoid the unforced errors Hanson makes in this piece.

First, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is a patriot, and while I believe he is very wrong about his understanding of how national security policy is made by the president in a "unitary executive" constitutional order, he is entitled to his opinion and to air it publicly, if in doing so he does not violate orders. Argue with his reasoning, not his person.

More important, there is not now, nor has there ever been a "deep state" in the United States. Deep states exist in history in the fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century and continue today in North Korea, China, Cuba and Venezuela. Menacing security agencies exist in Russia and other states, including within the governments of some countries we call "allies," such as Turkey.

Wherever politics is controlled by secret police and a secret security apparatus, there is a deep state. The rule of law is the only answer to the deep state, the writ of habeas corpus, the right to a speedy trial, the right to confront accusers — these are all bulwarks of due process, and we have them all in the United States as a matter of course. It is crucial for Republicans generally and conservative supporters of President Donald Trump specifically to stay far away from exaggeration during the impeachment process.

It also distracts from the need to drive home the more important point that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is denying the president and his colleagues in the minority due process as impeachment hearings opened Wednesday. Schiff has so far refused to allow the House Republicans to call the witnesses they want - especially Hunter Biden and the unnamed White House whistleblower.

The Senate Republicans, I have argued, should refuse any article of impeachment birthed by this deeply broken "process." But neither the president nor the country is helped by hyperbole.

Yes, it might turn out that a handful of senior officials at the FBI and within the intelligence community and the White House have politicized the security and law enforcement services during the election of 2016 and into the transition and perhaps beyond. That is for the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and U.S. Attorney John Durham to determine, and serious, fair-minded people will wait on the results of their investigations just as serious, fair-minded people waited for special counsel Robert Mueller III's report, which ultimately exonerated Trump of charges of collusion and obstruction in the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But there is no deep state, no out-of-control secret police, and there very much exists an independent judiciary deeply committed to individual rights.

Instead, what needs defending is that not only did Trump not commit an impeachable offense, he committed no offense at all, though his controversial back-channel lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has created a political headache for the president.

Opportunities are lost every day when the president's defenders overreach into conspiracy theory and refuse to wait upon the facts as they will inevitably emerge about the wrongdoings by government officials, if any. There is zero need to juice either the condemnation of Schiff's hearings or to slag career military or diplomats who are in disagreement with the president or the administration. That way lies madness and hysteria.

Stick with the facts. They are with the president.

Hugh Hewitt is a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

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