Watergate Reporter Warns Democrats: ‘Don’t Celebrate Impeachment Hearings Yet’

Adam Schiff hears from staff members during a break
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The first week of the public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which was led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, wrapped up yesterday. Many Democrats felt the testimonies were devastating for Trump. However, Watergate reporter Mike Kelly warned the party not to celebrate just yet.

Democrats assert that Trump illegally asked Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by digging up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. However, according to Kelly’s column in USA Today, much of the evidence presented against Trump in connection to him withholding military aid until Ukraine President Zelinsky publicly announced an investigation into Joe Biden’s son and the possibility of Ukraine interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election remains intangible.

“Hey Democrats, stop cheering your first stabs at impeachment,” wrote Kelly, who served as an intern for the Chicago Tribune‘s Washington Bureau during the impeachment hearings for President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s.

“The lesson many missed is how so much potential evidence against Trump is still elusive,” warned the seasoned journalist, who now writes for the North Jersey Record.

In essence, Kelly doesn’t see a smoking gun just yet in the evidence, and he pointed out that the timeline set by Democrats that might see the inquiry wrapped up by the end of 2019 or early 2020 is far too ambitious.

Kelly laid out the painstaking timeline for the impeachment hearings that ultimately ended with President Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, which was more than two years after the June, 1972, arrests of burglars at the Democratic National Headquarters.

The hearings in Nixon’s case didn’t even begin until May of 1973, and the smoking gun showed up when Alexander Butterfield, a Nixon administration aid, testified that Nixon had secret recordings of his conversations. It took a year of legal proceedings for Congress to receive the tapes.

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Although, in his July 25 call with President Zelinsky, Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” Kelly asserted that there’s no witness who can testify to a “Ukrainian-guns-for-Biden dirt” type of plot. Plus, Ukraine eventually received the aid that Congress had approved.

Given the complexity of the previous impeachment inquiry Kelly witnessed as a young reporter, he remains skeptical that Democrats have enough time to find witnesses who testify with conclusive proof of President Trump’s wrongdoing. He believes if they push forward with such a quick timeline, they will fail to find the concrete evidence that will end up leaving Republicans, who control the Senate, no choice but to insist that Trump leave office or face removal.

“This week’s hearings opened doors. But they also illuminated a tangled web of questions. Like Watergate, finding the answers may take time,” warned Kelly.