On Tuesday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone released a letter stating that the administration was refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s impeachment inquiry. Kevin Drum summarized the three main points.
1. The House impeachment inquiry is not a real impeachment inquiry because no vote has been taken. But just in case you think you can get around this by taking a vote, forget it. The inquiry is also invalid because Democrats “have not established any procedures affording the President even the most basic protections demanded by due process under the Constitution and by fundamental fairness.”
2. The impeachment inquiry is nothing more than a “naked political strategy” to overturn the 2016 election. It’s totally invalid.
3. There’s no legitimate basis for the inquiry because President Trump’s call to the president of Ukraine was “completely appropriate” and everyone knows it.
On the first point, the letter went into great detail about how the inquiry denies the president the right to cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses, and other protections we tend to associate with a trial. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy parroted those claims on Laura Ingraham’s show, which were effectively challenged by Stacey Abrams.
Think of it this way: an impeachment inquiry is like a grand jury process, not a trial. The House is the D.A. gathering evidence. The target has no right to cross-examine or call witnesses. The results of the inquiry will be articles of impeachment. Then comes the trial… https://t.co/TRIfYUKytq
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) October 9, 2019
The second point is not a legal matter, but a Trump talking point. It ignores the fact that the constitution has vested the House with the power of impeachment and that, rather than overturning an election, Trump would be succeeded by Mike Pence if the Senate decides to remove him from office.
The third point is perhaps the most alarming. The White House counsel is suggesting that there is nothing wrong with a president soliciting assistance from a foreign government to aid in his reelection.
All of that is why George Nunziata, who served as legal counsel to Republicans Marco Rubio and John Thune, tweeted this.
Wow. This letter is bananas. A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities.
No Member of Congress should accept it, no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff, or Trump.
Things are bad. Things will get worse. https://t.co/AesJ6cGHrl
— Gregg Nunziata (@greggnunziata) October 8, 2019
The fact is that there have been times when Republicans spoke up to defend congressional oversight of a sitting president. Republicans for the Rule of Law released video of Lindsey Graham speaking out in support of one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
Lindsey Graham: A president who doesn’t comply with Congressional requests for information is subject to impeachment. pic.twitter.com/Dhw5VBxbf0
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 8, 2019
There is also this video clip of former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy—who recently joined Trump’s legal team—highlighting the importance of complying with congressional oversight.
“The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.”
— Beki Knott (@lotsofuss) October 9, 2019
We’ve become inured to this kind of hypocrisy from Republicans because they get away with it all the time. That is mostly because their base of supporters live inside an information bubble where it is never exposed, which is why the president and his enablers assume they can get away with saying just about anything—even a blanket refusal to comply with congressional oversight.
The existence of that information bubble might prove to be the most significant way that our current situation differs from Nixon’s impeachment. But as Charles Perry reminds us, there is a striking similarity between what is happening now and the words of Senator Sam Ervin at the opening of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.
We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions, that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in, strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. If the many allegations made to this date are true, then the burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States.
If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable—their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election. Since that day, a mood of incredulity has prevailed among our populace, and it is the constitutional duty of this committee to allay the fears being expressed by the citizenry, and to establish the factual bases upon which these fears have been founded.
The current crisis isn’t about a break-in, but centers around this president’s repeated attempts to utilize foreign assistance to get elected, which undermines our “most precious heritage” and the possibility of a free election. That is what this impeachment inquiry is all about. To the extent that Republicans support the president’s efforts to stonewall this investigation, they make themselves not only hypocrites, but co-conspirators.