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U.S. Senate Laughs Down Trump Attorney Michael van der Veen’s Demand to Depose Impeachment Witnesses In His Personal Law Office


Impeachment viewers exploded Saturday morning as the U.S. Senate laughed down former President Donald Trump‘s impeachment attorney, Michael van der Veen, over a statement that depositions should be done in his private Philadelphia law office rather than through another mechanism.

House impeachment managers suggested that depositions might help beef up their case against Trump.  Questions were posited regarding whether such depositions could be done remotely.

“There are a lot of depositions that need to be happening,” van der Veen said.  “Nancy Pelosi‘s deposition needs to be taken.  Kama — uh, uh — Vice President — uh — Harris’s — uh — deposition absolutely needs to be taken.  And, not by Zoom.  None of these depositions should be done by Zoom.  We didn’t do this hearing by Zoom!  These depositions should be done in person in my office in Philadelphia.  That’s where they should be done.”

Van der Veen’s pronunciation of the city was more akin to this:  “Phil-EE-delphia.”

The Senate started laughing — audibly.

Van der Veen grew more emboldened by the laughter.

“I don’t know how many civil lawyers are here, but that’s the way it works, folks!  When you want somebody’s deposition, you send a notice of deposition, and they appear at the place where the notice says!  That’s civil process!  I don’t know why you’re laughing!  It is civil process!  That is the way lawyers do it!  We send notices of deposition . . . ”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is presiding, cut in with a call for order.

“I haven’t laughed at any of you,” van der Veen chided the deliberative body before him.  “And there’s nothing laughable here.”

Reaction was immediate.

“Unfortunately for the criminal defense attorney, the laughter was not offered with him, but at him,” noted Colby Hall on Law&Crime’s sister site, Mediaite.

The word “Veen” began trending on Twitter.

“Obviously van der Veen forgot that it’s his client’s position that ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia,’ mocked George Conway.

History Prof. Kevin M. Kruse added context:

Journalists Pat Kiernan and Kyle Griffin suggested that the sort of civil litigation with which van der Veen is apparently used to handling is nothing like an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate:

Journalist David Corn questioned van der Veen’s legal tactics as less than wise:

Some, however, didn’t seem to mind the thought of depositions occurring in van der Veen’s office — for sarcastic reasons:

Van der Veen is correct, legally speaking, about how depositions generally occur in civil matters.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 30 outlines the process. It says, relevantly:

A party who wants to depose a person by oral questions must give reasonable written notice to every other party. The notice must state the time and place of the deposition and, if known, the deponent’s name and address. If the name is unknown, the notice must provide a general description sufficient to identify the person or the particular class or group to which the person belongs.

However, contrary to the core thrust of van der Veen’s argument against conducting depositions via Zoom, the federal rule also allows for depositions to be recorded and to be conducted remotely:

The parties may stipulate—or the court may on motion order—that a deposition be taken by telephone or other remote means. For the purpose of this rule and Rules 28(a), 37(a)(2), and 37(b)(1), the deposition takes place where the deponent answers the questions.

In the criminal context, some states do — and some states do not — allow depositions to occur prior to criminal trials.

However, as Law&Crime has repeatedly pointed out, impeachment trials are not trials in a court of law.  They are neither criminal nor civil proceedings.  They are, at their core, political proceedings — and here, many “jurors” (Senators) have already made up their minds along ideological lines.  To wit, CNN is reporting that calling witnesses at the impeachment trial “won’t change any minds” among most GOP senators “because they are resting on their procedural argument that there shouldn’t be a trial in the first place.”

[image via CNN screengrab]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.