CLAIM: The House impeachment inquiry was fair, inclusive, and obeyed precedent from previous impeachments.
VERDICT: False. The House broke with precedent, denying President Donald Trump due process and fairness.
Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who led the impeachment inquiry as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tried repeatedly to defend the process Democrats used to investigate the president.
At one point Tuesday evening, White House lawyer Pam Bondi pointed out that the executive employees who had not obeyed House subpoenas had been acting in accordance with legal opinion that advised them not to testify if counsel was barred from attending. Schiff claimed that having a lawyer from their respective agencies — whose job would simple have been to protect the House from violating executive privilege — would amount to “witness intimidation.”
Schiff also claimed: “We followed the procedures in the [Bill] Clinton and [Richard] Nixon impeachments.” He even argued that Democrats offered greater protections to the president than in those cases.
Schiff was not telling the truth.
As Breitbart News explained in detail at the time of the House resolution authorizing the impeachment inquiry, the Trump impeachment inquiry deputized the House Intelligence Committee and other committees, rather than the House Judiciary Committee, to conduct the investigation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) likely did that so that Schiff could hold secret hearings in the Intelligence Committee’s “bunker,” releasing transcripts at will.
Moreover, unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, the Trump impeachment denied the minority party the ability to object to witnesses called by the majority — but not vice versa. House Democrats also denied President Trump the right to have a lawyer present during the fact-finding stage of the inquiry, who could ask questions of witnesses. And requests by Republicans to call or subpoena witnesses were summarily denied by Schiff and his party comrades.
Schiff also claimed Tuesday that Republicans were, in fact, given access to his hearings — and that as many as “100 members” participated. That was misleading, at best. The “100 members” were spread out among several committees, and still represented less than 25% of the House membership. Republicans who tried to attend the “secret” hearings were ejected, and committee members were threatened with ethics investigations if they dared leak any information. Schiff told the Senate that Republicans had been allowed to ask questions, but in fact he shut down any questions about the “whistleblower.”
Worse still, Democrat leaders and staff had access to the transcripts of witness testimony, but Republicans were not allowed to view the transcripts freely. Only one printed copy of each transcript was made available, and it could only be reviewed under the supervision of an unelected Democrat staff member.
As for the claim that the president had more protections, Schiff was repeating a claim from the House Judiciary Committee’s Democrat staff report: The privileges afforded under H. Res. 660 are even greater than those provided to Presidents Nixon and Clinton. They allow the President or his counsel to participate in House Judiciary Committee proceedings by presenting their case, responding to evidence, submitting requests for additional evidence, attending hearings (including non-public hearings), objecting to testimony, and cross-examining witnesses.
Those “privileges’ only kicked in at the Judiciary Committee, which heard no fact witnesses; all of the “fact-finding,” such as it was, had already been done. Moreover, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee denied Republicans their right to hold a day of hearings, as House rules require. Schiff’s claim about the process is simply a brazen lie.
One final point is worth emphasizing: Schiff warned Trump, at the outset, that any effort to exert privileges would be regarded as evidence of obstruction. It recalled the abuse of the McCarthy era, which was once a cautionary tale.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.