When Rep. Matt Gaetz led a group of Republican lawmakers who barged into one of Rep. Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry hearings last week, we were reminded how dumb the stunt was because, among other things, Republicans were present and accounted for at the hearings.
What was the big deal? After all, if members of the GOP got to ask questions and were represented, surely you couldn’t have qualms about how this was going, right?
Here was one complaint from the New York Daily News’ Max Burns: “Gaetz makes the laughable claim that Republicans are being excluded from impeachment inquiry depositions like the one his mob compromised today,” Burns wrote.
“That is categorically false: Republican members of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees were in attendance for today’s deposition. Gaetz’s gripe is that those Republicans were unwilling to turn a serious intelligence hearing into a media circus.”
It’s curious to hear defenders of the Adam Schiff-led impeachment inquiry talk about turning something into a media circus, but the point is technically still valid. After all, if there are Republicans in attendance, what’s his beef?
It turns out that Burns chose, if just accidentally, the correct two words for it: “in attendance.” There are Republicans present at these hearings. What they can say and do is another question entirely.
Tuesday’s star witness before the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committee was Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top expert on Ukraine. The major headlines were that Vindman testified that he had issues with the administration’s Ukraine policy — President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in particular — and that several edits he had proposed to the transcript of that call were rejected.
As is so often the case with these hearings, there’s a marked difference between what the headlines are and what they ought to be. After the hearing was concluded, members of GOP leadership said in a media conference that they were actively stopped from asking questions by Rep. Schiff, a California Democrat, with one saying the House Intelligence Committee chairman was acting as Vindman’s “lawyer” and coaching him during his testimony.
Jordan said that Schiff had stopped an entire line of questioning on the events surrounding the Zelensky call.
“When we asked [Vindman] who he spoke to after important events in July — Adam Schiff says, ‘no, no, no, we’re not going to let him answer that question,’” Jordan said.
By stopping the questioning, the Ohio representative said, Schiff was effectively acting as counsel for Vindman.
“They don’t need Adam Schiff being chairman and lawyer. But that’s, in effect, what happened today.”
That wasn’t all the Democrats were shutting down, according to Jordan. He also said that the exact details of who would appear before the committee was being kept from them, purportedly out of concern that they were trying to uncover who the CIA whistleblower who started the Ukraine investigation is.
“The Democrats run out here and say, ‘ooh, the Republicans are trying to figure out who the whistleblower is,’” Jordan said.
“We’re trying to figure out who our witness list is! The resolution that the Speaker has just filed … she points this out in the resolution that this is going to go to the Judiciary Committee if, in fact, they push it there. There will be witnesses called. We would like to figure out who those witnesses should be.”
“I pointed out last week there are 435 members of Congress … only one of them knows who the whistleblower is, more importantly, who the sources are for the whistleblower that were the basis of him filing this complaint. Now he doesn’t want anyone else to know that,” he added.
Scalise, meanwhile, said that this was a “one-sided Soviet-style process that we’ve never seen before.”
Scalise on Schiff: He gets to choose all the witnesses and he, himself, only, which means it’s not a fair process on the face, but even his claim now that Republicans can ask question has been undermined because now he’s directing witnesses
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 29, 2019
“It’s clear Pelosi needs to declare a mistrial,” Scalise said.
“This has been a tainted process from the start. What happened today confirms even worse just how poorly Adam Schiff is handling this process, and denying the ability for Republicans to even ask basic questions that are critical to the heart of whether or not a President of the United States is impeached.”
Vindman hasn’t been the only star witness whose hearing has been tainted by allegations that Schiff and congressional Democrats are using the closed-door process to wallpaper over issues with testimony.
For instance, last week’s star witness was former Ukrainian envoy William Taylor. Taylor was supposedly the big break Democrats needed, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a quid pro quo from President Trump to Ukraine regarding military aid.
Yet, numerous Republicans called for the transcripts to be released, arguing that Taylor’s testimony was far less damaging to President Trump than the reporting might indicate.
In an appearance on Fox News after the Taylor hearing, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy described how Democrats “go out to the press and say Taylor is terrible and Adam Schiff won’t let us talk about what happened.
“In 90 seconds, we had [Texas GOP Rep.] John Ratcliffe destroy his whole argument. We are finding just his questioning refuted everything of what Adam Schiff leaves out there; there is no quid pro quo,” the California Republican said.
And good luck to any representative who wanted to publicize the testimony from Ratcliffe — or, for that matter, even re-read it.
“What’s happening in the Intel committee today, even the members on the committee — the Republicans — cannot read any information unless one of Adam Schiff’s own staffers are in the room next to them,” McCarthy said.
Other top Republicans reiterated that the secrecy the closed-door meetings provided had made posturing much easier for the Democrats.
The leaks out of today’s witness interview have been laughably overblown and don’t tell the full story
Still no evidence of quid pro quo. Much of the statement and hearsay allegations didn’t hold up against any real scrutiny.
The FULL transcript should be released immediately
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) October 23, 2019
Spent another entire day in Schiff’s super secret bunker in the Capitol basement for Amb Taylor’s depo. This transcript should be released ASAP along w ALL of the other transcripts. Much of his leaked opening statement collapsed, but Schiff keeps the public in the dark on that!?
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) October 23, 2019
History keeps on repeating itself when it comes to these hearings. We don’t hear what these bombshell witnesses have to say; Democrats just vouchsafe to us that what was said gravely eroded trust in the administration and put the House that much closer to impeaching President Trump.
Republicans, meanwhile, basically describe the inquiry as a joke where no adversarial questions of substance are allowed to be posed and when they are, the exchange isn’t shared with the American people.
Who, when looking for the truth, won’t let questions be asked? Who, when looking for the truth, won’t let the American people in on the details in critical testimony that they’re perfectly willing to adumbrate what was said in the most favorable light to them?
The answer is someone more concerned with politics than they are the truth.
So, yes, Mr. Burns. There are apparently Republicans “in attendance,” as you pointed out. If what Reps. Jordan and Scalise are saying is true, much like the hearings themselves, their presence appears to be mostly for show.
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