The House has released its resolution outlining rules governing the impeachment inquiry process of President Donald Trump, including rules for each of the relevant House committees to follow, call witnesses and question them, and if the White House and Senate believe they fall short, then it is going to be up to the Senate to fill in the gaps, provide due process and to begin to address the allegations being made against President Donald Trump on substance.
Because once the House moves forward with its chosen process, there is no other check in place in our constitutional system to balance it out.
For example, it looks like the House is going to shut down any and all calls by Republicans for witnesses unless the chairs of the relevant committees approve. The resolution provides that the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees can seek subpoenas for witnesses with the approval of the chair, but if that is declined, then “the ranking member shall have the right to refer to the committee for decision the question whether such authority shall be so exercised and the chair shall convene the committee promptly to render that decision…”
In short the Democratic majority on each committee could simply shut down and all Republican requests for witnesses, even if those witnesses might provide exculpatory information on the question of impeaching President Trump.
But that’s not much different that the process in the Bill Clinton impeachment inquiry resolution. The difference then was that witnesses could be called by the chair and ranking member together, but that if they couldn’t agree, it would go to the committee. In theory that might compel both sides to work together to avoid voting on every witness, but the majority on the committee could still overrule minority witnesses at every turn in either event if they desired.
Leaving that aside, it is also unclear if the transcripts of previously interviewed witnesses will ever be released publicly at any point, including any recordings that have been made. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is “authorized,” but not required, “transfer… records or materials” related to the inquiry to the House Judiciary Committee.
The White House for its part issued a statement calling the process even under the resolution a “sham,” saying via Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, saying, “The White House is barred from participating at all, until after Chairman Schiff conducts two rounds of one-sided hearings to generate a biased report for the Judiciary Committee… This resolution does nothing to change the fundamental fact that House Democrats refuse to provide basic due process rights to the Administration.”
It also noted that rules for the President’s counsel to appear at the House Judiciary Committee have yet to be written.
So, if the White House and Congressional Republicans do not like this process, then it is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to step forward with Senate Republican committee chairs and start holding hearings. If Republicans in the House cannot ask all of the questions that need to be asked and iIf the House refuses to release transcripts of the closed door witnesses, then the same witnesses need to be called on the Senate side so those questions can be asked. If the House refuses to allow certain witnesses to be called, then call them on the Senate side so questions can asked and a baseline can be established for the eventual trial in the Senate.
More importantly, hearings in the Senate concurrent with those in the House will give the American people a fuller picture of what’s at stake, and to hear the other side of the story. And all that can be done long before the House votes to impeach President Trump, if they ever do.
Meaning, if the anonymous CIA so-called whistleblower is never called publicly in the House, there will be opportunity to do so on the Senate side.
If and when the Senate trial begins, Rule VI of the Senate’s impeachment rules states clearly, “The Senate shall have power to compel the attendance of witnesses, to enforce obedience to its orders, mandates, writs, precepts, and judgment, to preserve order, and to punish in a summary way contempts of, and disobedience to, its authority, orders, mandates, writs, precepts, or judgements, and to make all lawful orders, rules, and regulations which it may deem essential or conducive to the ends of justice.”
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning issued a statement calling for the Senate to hold up funding for the legislative branch in the upcoming omnibus spending bill if the House refused to fully provide due process, saying, “The Senate should reject all attempts to fund the legislative branch in the upcoming omnibus appropriations bill until the House of Representatives engages in due process, with full participation by the minority, in their impeachment witch hunt. While Congress has every right to pursue impeachment, the current ‘make up the rules as you go along’ secret star chamber being implemented by U.S. Rep. Schiff and coordinated with Speaker Pelosi violates the precepts of minority rights within our system, and the Senate is under no obligation to fund it. There can be no excuse for continuing to fund this sham, which denies the President of the United States basic constitutional rights that every citizen should expect to be honored.”
So, again, if the Senate and the White House feel that due process and minority rights are not being fully followed, there are a bevy of opportunities for Senate Republicans to do something about it. They don’t have to wait for a trial. They can hold their own hearings, call their own witnesses, ask their own questions and block funding if it comes to that — and start addressing the allegations against President Trump on their merits. They are not powerless.