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April 10, 2024 03:27 PM UTC

Scott Gessler Crashes And Burns Griswold Impeachment Hearing

  • by: Colorado Pols
Trump attorney and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Yesterday, the Colorado House Judiciary Committee debated a resolution introduced by GOP micro-minority leader Rose Pugliese and Rep. Ryan Armagost seeking to impeach Secretary of State Jena Griswold in retaliation for the Trump v. Anderson U.S. Supreme Court case, which ruled unanimously that states do not have the power to disqualify federal candidates under the 14th Amendment. Leading up to yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Armagost had a disastrous interview on 9NEWS in which he proved unable to articulate the grounds for impeaching Secretary Griswold, eventually admitting that the true purpose of the resolution was to drum up support in the November election.

But if there was any expectation that this hearing would prove in any way helpful to Republicans politically, by the end of this five-and-a-half-hour hearing those hopes were not only dashed, but it was clear that Democrats had forced a massive own goal on Republicans by allowing this sham resolution to even be debated. The Colorado Sun reports:

House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, didn’t have to allow a hearing on the matter as she has to for other bills, Attorney General Phil Weiser said in an opinion last month. “No Colorado law or rule provides express procedural requirements for consideration of an impeachment proceeding by the House of Representatives,” he wrote.

But McCluskie moved forward anyway, saying that while she thinks the resolution is a waste of time, “we believe a public hearing to set the record straight on this issue is in the best interest of our democracy.”

In reality, however, Democrats were eager for the opportunity to take Republicans head on and confront them over the underlying facts of the Trump v. Anderson case the Supreme Court never address: the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection. Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

For Democrats, who hold a wide majority in the legislature and authorized the impeachment hearing to proceed, it was a chance to push back against election disinformation and to re-litigate Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was at the heart of the Colorado court case… [Pols emphasis]

For her part, Secretary Griswold told CPR News she has every right as an elected official to speak out about Trump being a threat, and dismissed the impeachment effort as a political stunt.

“It’s a sham endeavor,” said Griswold. “It’s very clear that it’s not a serious matter, but I’m sure they’ll try to use it for their base and they’ll try to use it to push out misinformation, which is a shame because again, lies our elections have real world consequences.”

Democrats were well aware going into this hearing that Republican justification for the resolution was perilously thin and reliant upon gross misinformation about the case brought by mostly Republican voters against Secretary Griswold and nominal co-defendant Donald Trump seeking to disqualify Trump from Colorado’s presidential primary ballot. The truth is that Griswold complied with court orders at every step of the process, most importantly restoring Trump to the ballot as soon as Trump’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was filed. Because these facts are only in dispute among those who don’t know the facts, much of the GOP’s testimony consisted of complaints unrelated to the impeachment allegations at all.

But that wasn’t the GOP’s biggest mistake. That would be their “expert witness,” who our longtime readers know all too well–current Trump attorney and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who was trafficking in baseless election conspiracy theories years before Donald Trump made them stylish. The Denver Post’s Seth Klamann:

Republicans on the committee and supportive witnesses took broad aim at Griswold, a Democrat considered a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2026, and how she’s run her office since her first election six years ago. Much of that expanded beyond the scope of the impeachment resolution: Two of the Republicans’ witnesses who criticized other aspects of Griswold’s tenure said they had only briefly reviewed the resolution before the hearing.

Democrats used the proceeding to describe the details of the deadly Jan. 6 riot and blast House Republicans’ history of election denialism, like their vote two years ago to thank the Jan. 6 crowd and question President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. One of the witnesses who testified against Griswold on Tuesday, former Republican Secretary of State and Trump lawyer Scott Gessler, has also baselessly questioned the 2020 election results.

The decision to rely upon Scott Gessler to make the case that Secretary of State Griswold is “too partisan,” for anyone who is aware of Gessler’s record as Secretary of State and subsequently as a member of Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn elections in other states in 2020, is one of the most baffling and outrageously bad judgment calls we’ve ever seen from Colorado Republicans–and that is no small statement. Gessler’s totally discredited claims of “tens of thousands of illegal voters” ruined his credibility and Gessler’s 2014 run for governor. After a few years of representing local Republican campaigns like the recall attempts against Gov. Jared Polis, Gessler was hired by the Trump campaign in 2020 to attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election in Nevada. That suit like every other filed by the Trump campaign was laughed out of court, the judge ruling that Gessler “did not prove under any standard of proof that any illegal votes were cast and counted.”

With Republicans unable to substantiate a case for impeachment under the resolution submitted, much of Republican testimony consisted of wide-ranging allegations that were not part of the resolution or only tangentially related, and Gessler along with his former deputy Suzanne Taheri were no exception with their own laundry list of unsubstantiated hearsay. In response, Rep. Steven Woodrow was ready with a case from Gessler’s term in which the Colorado Supreme Court found that Gessler had exceeded his rulemaking authority.

This exchange…did not go well:

WOODROW: Thank you very much Madame assistant majority leader, Mr. Gessler. Back in 2013, you were named in a lawsuit, Hamlin v. Gessler, in which the Colorado Supreme Court said, paragraph 51 of their opinion, ‘We hold that the secretary acted in excess of his rulemaking authority in promulgating rule 10.7.5. The rule contravenes section one, dash four, dash 1002, parentheses 2.5, as well as election code provisions that require issues regarding a certified candidate’s eligibility to be resolved by the courts. The rule is therefore void.’ Now, even though the Colorado Supreme Court found that you had acted in excess of your authority and contravened Colorado statute, you would agree with me that your misinterpretation of the law was not an impeachable offense. Isn’t that right?

BACON: Mr. Gessler?

GESSLER: Are you serious? You’re asking me to remember that case from 11 years ago? I don’t remember that. I’m sorry.

WOODROW: Okay. And nothing of Mr. Gessler about me repeating parts of the opinion to you where you tried to implement rules, shutting down certain aspects of mail-in voting to an eligible voters, You don’t remember anything about that?

GESSLER: You mean section 1.924 Wacka Wacka Zulu? No, I don’t remember that.

WOODROW: Okay, well, I’m sorry that it, mistakes your, escapes your memory. You would agree with me, however, that nothing you did while you were in office was impeachable, correct?

GESSLER: I would agree with that.

On the one hand, Scott Gessler wasn’t on trial. But as a supposedly expert witness testifying on Griswold’s alleged ‘excessive partisanship,’ Gessler was probably the worst living example Republicans could have chosen. Democrats repeatedly came back to Gessler’s carefully-worded statement that “The Electoral College” had made Biden President until they finally cornered him into revisiting the discredited 2020 election conspiracy theories Gessler peddled as Trump’s attorney in Nevada. But it was Rep. Steven Woodrow citing a case where judges ruled that Gessler had acted illegally, and Gessler’s insulting non-answers in response, that turned the GOP’s already lost case into a humiliating farce.

The damage to Republicans from this hearing is limited only by the limited press coverage, and in particular Gessler’s prominent and hypocritical role in this hearing. It’s not enough to simply discredit the allegations in the impeachment resolution, which most news reports did very well at debunking in their coverage of yesterday’s hearing. It takes the historical knowledge of the record of Republican election conspiracy theorists like Scott Gessler to understand the full extent of his audacious hypocrisy.

Gessler didn’t appear yesterday as a former Secretary of State. This was Trump’s lawyer talking, and it went as badly as every other venue where Trump is, pretenses aside, the only one on trial.


4 thoughts on “Scott Gessler Crashes And Burns Griswold Impeachment Hearing

  1. Wednesday Day he crashed their party.  On Thursday he says he’s sorry.  We may be right.  He may be crazy. But it’s definitely not a lunatic we’re looking for.

  2. Before he was SOS, I litigated cases against Scott.  While I disagreed with his politics and often his legal positions, they were generally in the realm of sanity.  But since he was elected SOS he has gone full nutjob.  I would say it's sad, but it's really more funny and pathetic.  He's probably making decent money shilling for the RWNJs, but he really should just put on the red nose and go full-on clown. 

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