The House voted to pass a resolution confirming the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump and outlining the “rules” that will govern the House Intelligence Committee’s fact-finding process, even though that process has already begun.
The measure passed on a nearly strict party line vote, 232-196, with all but two Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) — voting to pass the resolution. Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), the House’s lone independent, voted to pass the resolution.
Fox News reports that Republicans and Democrats engaged in a fiery floor debate ahead of the vote, with legislators from both sides lobbing pointed barbs. Republicans had, by far, the more significant complaints, charging that the Democrats were engaging in a “witch hunt” on Halloween, that they were launching a “coup” against the President, and that the impeachment inquiry itself was “pre-ordained,” and that Democratic legislators were just looking for an excuse to start the process.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) took the fight to Twitter, calling the impeachment inquiry a “sham” and pointing out that the “resolution” that Democrats seemed so eager to label a mere “codification” of previously agreed-up standards keeps the public — and Republican legislators — in the dark.
“Transcripts aren’t required to be made public,” Lesko explained of the resolution’s guidelines. “Exculpatory evidence does not have to be turned over.”
This resolution for a sham impeachment process is a farce:
– Transcripts aren't required to be made public
– Exculpatory evidence does not have to be turned over
Democrats are misleading the public once again. This does not open up the process, nor does it provide transparency. pic.twitter.com/QnvHeWDaEt
— Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (@RepDLesko) October 31, 2019
The resolution also, famously, puts Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in charge of the full inquiry, and gives Schiff the power to order subpoenas and compel testimony. Republicans are allowed to issue their own subpoenas and present their own testimony, but any rebuttal witnesses, or witnesses presented in defense of the President, must be approved by Schiff, the operating chair of the investigation.
The resolution calls for an “open hearing or hearings” where the President’s allies can present their case in defense of Trump, but only after Democrats have presented their case. All witness requests must be submitted to Chairman Schiff for approval: “to allow for a full evaluation of minority witness requests, the ranking minority member may submit to the chair, in writing, any requests for witness testimony relevant to the investigation described in the first section of this resolution within 72 hours after notice is given.”
Schiff, of course, is already under scrutiny by the GOP for statements he made at the opening of the Congressional impeachment inquiry, recounting what he now admits was an “imagined” conversation between the President and Ukrainian government officials, with the President demanding an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s possible exercise of influence in the country in return for cutting a foreign aid check.
The White House later released a transcript of the call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky which did not show any “quid-pro-quo” arrangement.
Republicans charged that such a measure, requiring them to run their full case by Schiff in order to present basic evidence, violates the President’s Due Process rights. Democrats insist that the rules outlined in the resolution are the same rules that applied during both Bill Clinton’s and Richard Nixon’s impeachment inquiries.
The White House cited those rules when responding to the vote.
“With today’s vote, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters.
So far, Democrats have conducted the impeachment inquiry mostly in private, behind closed doors, and occasionally, in a SCIF — a specially created classified information zone within the Capitol. The resolution sets the stage for Democrats to bring the hearings out into the open — something that will, no doubt, provide some measure of relief to Republicans who say they’ve been cut out of the process so far.