Impeachment Procedures Provide a Whole New Set of Headaches for Republicans

While the House Intelligence Committee has been focused on taking depositions from potential witnesses for the impeachment inquiry, Republicans have focused all of their efforts on criticizing the process. It is hard to imagine what the Republicans saw as their end game with that strategy. But given that the evidence against Trump has been so overwhelming, perhaps that’s all they had to work with.

On Tuesday, with the release of the resolution detailing the procedures that will be employed in the impeachment process, Speaker Pelosi completely undermined all of the Republican complaints about process and gave them a few additional headaches to contend with.

Of course, the impeachment hearings will be public and Republicans can both question witnesses and request subpoenas. Transcripts of the depositions already taken will be made public, with redactions for classified information. All of that will happen because the Democrats are the ones who actually want the public to hear the evidence.

But Speaker Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff included a few tidbits in the procedures that once again demonstrate that they know exactly what they are doing. While the procedures indicate that the Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Oversight, and Ways and Means Committees will continue their investigations, it is clear that the House Intelligence Committee will be the focal point of the impeachment process.

When it comes to the loudest voices defending the president on the Republican side, we tend to think of people like Representatives Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz, and Lee Zeldin. None of them are on the House Intelligence Committee. Of the nine Republicans who do serve on that committee, two of them—Representatives Will Hurd and Mike Turner—have raised questions about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

But the most important thing to notice about the procedures for these hearings is that the questioning of witnesses will begin with up to 90 minutes (45 per side) allotted to staff counsel. If you remember, those are the conditions Attorney General Barr refused to comply with when called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Rather than the five minutes allotted to each committee member, this means that staff will be able to pursue a line of questioning in depth and limit the ability of witnesses to eat up the time with evasive maneuvers. In the all-important matter of impeachment, it will lay the groundwork for a narrative to emerge.

The House Intelligence Committee is directed to issue a report on their findings, which will form the basis for proceedings in the Judiciary Committee. It is during that process that the president and his counsel will be allowed to cross examine witnesses and request testimony. The final step is for the Judiciary committee to “report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper.”

The Rules Committee held a hearing on these procedures Wednesday and Democratic leaders plan to bring it to a full House vote on Thursday. What we’re hearing publicly from Republicans is that two days is not enough time for them to “properly digest this.” But according to the Washington Post, here’s what they’re saying behind closed doors.

In a separate briefing for reporters on the Democratic resolution, House Republican aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal views said GOP lawmakers and aides have deep concerns about a “bifurcated process” that gives Schiff and the Intelligence Committee the lead role, with the Judiciary Committee playing a subsequent role in receiving its findings and potentially writing articles of impeachment.

After all the shouting from Republicans and hand-wringing from the media, there are two things that have been predictable since the day Speaker Pelosi announced that the House would open an impeachment inquiry. First of all, the proceedings were always going to become public. That is because it is the Democrats—not Republicans—who want everyone to see the evidence.

Secondly, no matter what procedures were adopted, the Republicans were destined to complain. Other than smearing witnesses, that’s all they’ve got.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.