(TNS) Former Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray on Friday objected to his predecessor Ken Starr’s characterization that a tweet sent by President Donald Trump during the impeachment testimony of fired Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was “injurious.”
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In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto, Ray, who inherited the Bill Clinton-era probe from Starr, discounted Starr’s notion that the president’s real-time criticism of a diplomat he fired amounted to “witness tampering” and an impeachable offense.
Regarding Starr’s criticism, Ray said, “I think that’s a bit overstated.”
“Look, she’d already testified in deposition form” so “it’s a little hard to make the argument that there is any real evidence here, or concern about, witness tampering,” Ray said.
The former independent counsel also noted that Yovanovitch’s testimony sounds more like her “feelings were hurt” over being dismissed from her U.S. ambassadorship to Ukraine — which the president did because she was in the post when the Obama administration, via Joe Biden, was shaking down the Ukrainian government and when the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign was digging for dirt on the Trump campaign.
“This is supposed to be…honestly…an impeachment proceeding that is a pretty solemn inquiry, right?” Ray continued. “And a serious one. And, honestly, we’re talking about an ambassador’s feelings and we’re using that as a basis during the Democratic examination of a witness?”
“You try to take this seriously and give it the respect that it is due,” but it’s difficult when the premise behind the line of questioning of an ‘impeachment witness’ is ridiculous to begin with.
Ray noted that the country should only have to suffer through “another week of this” before the inquiry moves to the House Judiciary Committee, perhaps for formal articles of impeachment.
To that point, Cavuto noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “put fuel on the fire” by saying last week that the ‘crimes’ President Trump has allegedly committed pale in comparison to Watergate, to which Ray scoffed.
“I don’t know how many times I have to say this, I was 13 at the time, but let’s just try it on for size again,” Ray said.
“Tell me how [Trump’s situation] is similar to a slush fund with cash in the White House orchestrated by the president of the United States (Richard Nixon) on tape discussing with co-conspirators about moving cash in order to pay off witnesses to alter testimony in an ongoing criminal investigation.
“Does any of that sound anything like what we’re talking about here?” Ray said.
“We don’t impeach a president based on policy differences,” he added.
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