“Just the Facts, Ma'am!”

“Just the Facts, Ma'am!”

© David Burton 2019

Just the facts, ma'am

     Joe Friday was a fictional character created (and portrayed) by Jack Webb as the lead for the hit television series Dragnet. Friday was portrayed as a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department. The character first appeared on June 3, 1949 in the premiere of the NBC radio drama that launched the series. Webb played the character on radio and later on television from 1949–1959 and again from 1967–1970.
     Detective Friday narrated every story, providing details in voiceover of what happened and where. The opening narration in the original 1951–59 TV series remained brief and straightforward: "This is the city, Los Angeles, California... I work here... I'm a cop."
     What followed was the introduction of the story's plot: "It was [day of the week and date], it was [weather conditions] in Los Angeles; we were working the [day|night] watch out of [police division]. My partner is [name]. The boss is [name]. My name's Friday."
     "Just the facts, ma'am" is a common catchphrase often attributed to Friday, but this was not the exact phrase. Friday typically used the phrase "All we want are the facts, ma'am" when questioning women in the course of investigations.[1]

     This week, the week of 10 November 2019, the House of Representatives opens hearings on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. As the L.A. detective, Joe Friday frequently stated, all we want are the facts - "Just the facts, ma'am!" What we don’t need are the blustering irrelevant twitters from the president. What we don’t want are unfounded charges against the president’s accusers or the innocent bystanders.

     Let’s see what the facts are.

     A government whistleblower came forward to accuse President Donald Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” (Ref. 2)

     “The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8)-(9), Pub.L. 101-12 as amended, is a United States federal law that protects federal whistleblowers who work for the government and report the possible existence of an activity constituting a violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” (Ref. 3)

     The whistleblower did his job. In spite of Trump’s demands to know who the whistleblower is, there is no valid reason to do so. It matters not if the whistleblower is a Trump hater or supporter. It matters not if he/she is a Democrat or Republican. All that matters is that a whistleblower filed a charge against the president. The charge has been investigated and there appears to be incontrovertible evidence that the charge is valid. The whistleblower’s job is done. Now it’s up to House of Representatives. Donald Trump can rant and rave and demand to know the whistleblower’s name but the Whistleblower Protection Act was made into law to avoid just such an unwarranted demand and to prevent vindictive people from unfairly abusing the whistleblower. Donald Trump has no right to know the name of the whistleblower!

     Neither Hunter Biden nor his father, potential Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph Biden, are the subjects of these hearings and are not witnesses to the accusations against the President. In spite of Trump’s attempts to sidetrack the hearings by having the Bidens called as witnesses, there is simply no legitimate reason for them to appear in the hearings.

     Trump and some of his Republican lackeys have objected to the initial hearings being held behind closed doors. But, that’s typically how our judicial system works! In criminal cases, grand juries are empaneled to gather evidence behind closed doors. This is done to protect witnesses and to prevent the testimony of one witness influencing another. Only after the grand jury determines that further legal action is warranted do the proceedings move to indictment and then trial. The House has held its closed hearings – with both Democrats and Republicans sitting in; with both Trump supporters and Trump opponents participating. The closed-door House hearings have determined that further action is appropriate. We are now proceeding to the open impeachment hearing which is equivalent to the criminal indictment. Donald Trump and his backers can yell foul all they want and argue on Twitter that he was not guilty of misconduct and that the probe is politically driven, but this is how the formal impeachment process is supposed to work. It is how it has worked in the past!

     House Republicans have released their witness list and the list includes, Hunter Biden and the yet-unnamed whistleblower. These Republican lawmakers have no right to the name of the whistleblower and Hunter Biden was not a witness to the supposed “high crime and misdemeanor” of which Trump is accused – calling Biden would only be a smokescreen and an attempt on the part of Trump and his supporters to smear the younger Biden and his father in advance of the 2020 election campaign.

     Democrats consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a formal impeachment vote against Trump. If that occurs, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges. Republicans have so far shown little support for removing Trump from office, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Whether or not that happens is yet to be seen. Right now, we are only at the indictment stage. Conviction is another matter. To date, no American president has never been convicted and removed from office.

     Hopefully, the coming House impeachment hearings will give the American people an opportunity to judge for themselves the guilt of innocence of Donald Trump. Hopefully, the hearings will be limited to the facts. Based upon prior evidence, such is not likely to be the case. Donald Trump does not let facts or the truth stand in his way. His approach is to deny, accuse, rant, and bully. The same can be said of many of his supporters. On the other side, it is incumbent upon the Democratic majority to conduct the hearings in as fair and equitable a manner as possible. Railroading an impeachment through the House will not serve the Democrats well. Above all, the American people are entitled to "Just the facts, ma'am (and sir)!"


  1. Dragnet, Wikipedia, last edited on 7 November 2019.
  2. The Whistleblower Complaint Timeline, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and D'Angelo Gore, factcheck.org, 6 November 2019.
  3. 3Whistleblower Protection Act, Wikipedia, last edited on 6 November 2019.
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