House Democrats are ditching the bipartisan playbook Republicans touted when they impeached President Bill Clinton two decades ago.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will open the public impeachment process Wednesday without the bipartisan praise for when Republicans launched the effort to oust Clinton on Oct. 5, 1998.
In fact, the Republicans are so deeply opposed to the process Democrats have established for conducting the impeachment proceeding, almost all of them have signed onto a measure to censure Schiff for “conduct that misleads the American people in a way that is not befitting an elected Member of the House of Representatives.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, has called Schiff’s hearings “your public show trial.”
It was much different when the parties met to conduct the Clinton impeachment investigation more than two decades ago, some Republicans who served on the committee said.
“The two sides talked,” Rep. Steve Chabot told the Washington Examiner. “We didn’t necessarily really agree on everything, but we came up with the rules ahead of time.”
Chabot, who has served in Congress mostly since 1995, sat on the House Judiciary Committee, which was tasked with investigating allegations against Clinton and later drafting articles of impeachment.
“The level of partisanship now is far more than it was back then, and the way it was handled was very different,” Chabot said.
When lawmakers met to adopt impeachment investigation procedures more than two decades ago, Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde and the panel’s top Democrat, John Conyers, did not agree on the need to open an impeachment proceeding into Clinton.
Conyers ripped the yearslong independent investigation into Clinton, which prompted the House proceeding, as “an offense to the traditions of this great country and to the common sense of the American people.”
But Conyers praised Hyde, a proponent of impeachment, for making the congressional phase of the proceeding a fair one for the Democrats, who were in the minority.
“Over the past weeks you and I have worked more closely together than in any other time of our careers. And I want to thank you for many untold efforts that you’ve made, including providing committee Democrats the Watergate rules of operation, which we sought,” Conyers told Hyde at the start of the impeachment proceeding.
“We have worked in a bipartisan manner on some of the issues that have confronted us, and while your hands may have been tied by your leadership on others, you know as well as I that whatever action this committee takes, must be fair, it must be bipartisan for it to have credibility.”
In contrast, Schiff and Nunes could not be further apart.
They have not met or discussed cooperating on the rules for the inquiry, Republicans said.
“They’re not consulting with us, they’re dictating to us,” a top GOP aide told the Washington Examiner.
The House voted on Oct. 31 to formally endorse authorizing Schiff and the intelligence panel to conduct an impeachment proceeding, which Republicans argued made little sense because none of the witnesses fell under the committee’s jurisdiction.
The public hearings that begin this week offer no opportunity for President Trump to defend himself through the participation of White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is not invited.
Schiff said the rules were established in the resolution so there would be no need to consult with the GOP.
The resolution, however, passed entirely with Democratic votes. Not one Republican voted for it.
In 1998, 31 Democrats voted with Republicans to open Clinton’s impeachment investigation.
“The rules resolution falls woefully short of the Constitution’s due-process standard,” Chabot and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who was a Clinton impeachment manager, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. “Every American has the right to hear all evidence presented against him, face his accuser directly, and mount a defense. We made sure to afford Mr. Clinton these rights in 1998-99.”
Schiff, over Republican objections, has pushed ahead with weeks of closed-door testimony and compared his role conducting the secretive process to that of former Independent Counsel Ken Starr, who produced a report House Republicans used to justify impeachment articles against Clinton.
According to transcripts, Schiff and other Democrats interrupted Republicans and blocked their cross-questioning of witnesses, claiming they were concerned the GOP would try to reveal the name of an anonymous whistleblower whose complaint regarding Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launched the impeachment proceeding.
Nunes has also accused Schiff of improperly using the intelligence panel to conduct impeachment proceedings that would traditionally be conducted by the Judiciary Committee. Nunes and other GOP lawmakers want to call Schiff as an impeachment witness so they can find out how much contact he had with the anonymous whistleblower and what role he played in guiding the whistleblower’s complaint.
“Based on precedent and lack of jurisdiction, the House Intelligence Committee should not take the lead in conducting such hearings,” Nunes wrote to Schiff on Nov. 8. “But now the American people know your desire to see the duly elected president removed from office outweighs your sense of responsibility in running a functioning intelligence oversight committee.”
Democrats argue that the rules aren’t much different than those used for the Clinton proceedings.
Back then, the Democrats in the minority could request witnesses and subpoenas, but they could be overruled by the majority GOP.
Similar rules are in place for the ongoing impeachment proceedings, but this time, the majority and the minority disagree over the witness list.
Schiff issued a statement Saturday rejecting some of the names on a witness list submitted by Nunes, among them former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
Republicans want to showcase why Trump sought Ukraine’s help investigating Biden’s actions while vice president. Biden sought the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was targeting a gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
Schiff also rejected the GOP’s request to summon Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic National Committee staffer who Republicans said worked with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to try to undermine Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff said.
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