Draft resolution authorizing impeachment inquiry will let Republicans call witnesses — subject to Adam Schiff’s approval


The whole thing is just eight double-spaced pages (with very narrow margins) so dive in. The good news for Republicans is that two — and maybe three — of their core complaints about the House process are being addressed here.

One: They objected that there was no formal vote authorizing the inquiry. This resolution, affirming that the ongoing inquiry is fully authorized, will be voted on tomorrow.

Two: They objected that Trump isn’t allowed to have his lawyers present. This resolution does create a role for the president’s attorneys — potentially. Section 4(a), which grants the House Judiciary Committee power to conduct impeachment proceedings, provides that it will be bound by rules promulgated by the Rules Committee “including such procedures as to allow for the participation of the President and his counsel.” Note that that does not mean that Trump’s lawyers get to participate in questioning witnesses during testimony before the House. They’ll get to cross-examine witnesses later, at the Senate trial. As I understand it, their participation in the House would begin only after Nadler’s committee finally begins weighing final articles of impeachment. Two Democratic aides tell WaPo that Trump’s lawyers will have the same rights as Bill Clinton’s did in 1998.

Three: They objected that House Republicans had been denied the power to call witnesses of their own. Everyone whom the House has heard from to date has been called by the Democratic chairs of the various committees. When does the GOP gain the power to bring in witnesses who might challenge the Democratic narrative?

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Soon, according to this resolution. But there’s a catch: Any request to invite a witness to testify or attempt to subpoena him offered by the GOP’s ranking member, Devin Nunes, must be approved by the chair of the relevant committee. That would be Adam Schiff.

“With the concurrence of the chair.” If Schiff rejects a subpoena, Nunes can take his request to the full committee — but since Democrats have a majority on every House committee, there’s near-zero chance of Schiff’s decision being overruled.

Although that reminds me: Who, exactly, does the GOP want to subpoena? Which witnesses to Trump’s Ukraine behavior are they itching to have testify but which Democrats supposedly are refusing to call? Mick Mulvaney? That might not go so well. Don’t say Rudy either. If you’ve seen a single Giuliani interview over the past six weeks, you know why Republicans should be terrified of putting him under oath in front of a microphone.

You may be wondering why it’s Schiff and Nunes, the heads of the Intelligence Committee, who are tasked with holding these hearings instead of Jerry Nadler, the head of the Judiciary Committee. It’s normally Judiciary that handles testimony on impeachment matters, right? Indeed — but Pelosi has her reasons for leaving this in Schiff’s hands instead:

Pelosi, D-Calif., has reportedly been underwhelmed by the handling of Trump-related hearings by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y, for some time, culminating with the embarrassing testimony of former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski…

[T]he decision to hold the most dramatic hearings in Schiff’s committee is a strategic move to try to keep the impeachment process focused. The Intelligence Committee is much smaller than most other House committees, with only 22 members compared to 41 in Judiciary and many other committees.

The Judiciary Committee is also home to some of the most outspoken and confrontational Republicans, such as ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ky., and others.

Schiff may also be more comfortable than Nadler is in telling Republicans no, as he’s had years of practice from clashing with Nunes on the Intel Committee. Just today, allegedly, he blocked several Republican questions during Alexander Vindman’s testimony which he thought were aimed at unmasking the whistleblower. “According to two knowledgeable people, a top staffer to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has been circulating the identity of a person believed to be the whistleblower among House Republicans,” says the Daily Beast. Apparently some of the queries put to Vindman were aimed at trying to “put a universe of individuals who had been communicated with on the table,” per Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to try to narrow the possible suspects. There’s not a lot that could make the Ukraine ordeal worse politically for the GOP at this point but outing the whistleblower despite the law’s offer of anonymity is one of them. Especially now that the original complaint has become less relevant to the inquiry thanks to firsthand testimony from the likes of Sondland, Bill Taylor, and Vindman.

One last noteworthy tidbit from the resolution:

Schiff now has the power to release full transcripts of witness testimony. I’ll be curious to see how aggressively he does or doesn’t exercise it given Republican complaints that he’s been distorting witness testimony via selective leaks to make Trump look as bad as possible.

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