by Bob Barr
The impeachment proceedings against President Trump have moved on from the House Intelligence Committee to the Judiciary Committee (which happens to be the only House committee with formal jurisdiction over impeachment). It is chaired by New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who has served on the committee for 27 years. Notwithstanding the change in venue, the proceedings are still a farce. They bear only surface resemblance to those in which I (and Nadler) participated 21 years ago.
The latest move in this game of impeachment took place on Sunday, when White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent Nadler a letter telling him that his client — the president of the United States — would not be participating in the committee’s inaugural impeachment hearing later this week. The lawyer’s letter was blunt; but if anything, it was too polite.
Nadler had declared Sunday the date by which Trump must let him know if he accepted the invitation to “participate” in the committee’s activities. The deadline was conveyed to the president in a Nov. 26 letter. For its authority, the letter drew on House Resolution 660, which formally launched the impeachment inquiry when passed by the full House on Oct. 31. It also referenced the procedures subsequently adopted by the Judiciary Committee for its hearings.
Taken together, these three documents establish clearly that whether and however the president might wish to participate in the Judiciary proceedings, it would be within the absolute control of Nadler; just as last month’s impeachment hearings in the Intelligence Committee were controlled completely by Chairman Adam Schiff.
For example, while the rules seem to afford the president authority to call witnesses or demand certain evidence be presented to the committee in his defense, he would first be required to submit a detailed justification for such testimony, which then would be permitted only if the Democrat majority in its compassion were to agree. No trial lawyer worth his or her hourly rate would ever agree to such conditions. Yet Nadler persists in the lie that such a requirement is consistent with the rules that governed the last presidential impeachment, and also that the procedure affords the president robust due process and fairness. That Nadler can make such a claim with a straight face is the only aspect of this entire proceeding that is impressive.
There are other provisions in the Pelosi-Nadler impeachment rule book making it crystal clear that neither the president nor Republican members of the Judiciary are being afforded any real power to influence the proceedings. However, the pièce de résistance is the provision in the committee’s new rules that would punish the president were he to “unlawfully” stop any witness summoned by Nadler from testifying or providing evidence he has demanded.
Thus, if the president were to submit to the one-sided rules adopted by the Democrats, and thereby agree to “participate” in the proceedings against him; and if he were then to instruct a witness subpoenaed by Nadler to assert “executive privilege” as to certain testimony or as to not testify, then he would be subject to having unspecified “appropriate remedies” levied against him. Such a provision was not part of any of the rules or procedures under which the 1998 impeachment took place; and for good reason — such a provision is one to which only the most ill-advised president would consider agreeing.
As pointed out also by Cipollone, Nadler is demanding that the president commit to “participate” in the scheduled hearings — and thereby accept the rules mandated by the Democrats — without even knowing what witnesses the majority party is planning to call. All that was known by the Dec. 1 deadline, is that the first hearing will be “Impeachment 101” — a topic certain to offer nothing but a veneer of academic respectability for the deeply partisan exercise to which Pelosi has unwisely given her imprimatur.
Toward the close of his Nov. 26 letter, Nadler appears to appeal to the oath the president took upon being sworn in as our nation’s commander-in-chief, by noting the “solemn nature of the work before us.” What is taking place now before the Judiciary Committee, however, is no more “solemn” than one of Sen. Cory Booker’s “Spartacus moments.”