Adam Schiff Makes Up New Rules for Impeachment Inquiry; Restricts Republican Witness Questions
House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a set of restrictions on Thursday morning limiting Republicans to calling witnesses that can respond to three questions, all of which reflect Democrats’ views. The questions, detailed in a letter Wednesday from Schiff to ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) are:
1.Did the President request that a foreign leader and government initiate investigations to benefit the President’s personal political interests in the United States, including an investigation related to the President’s political rival and potential opponent in the 2020 U.S. presidential election?
2.Did the President — directly or through agents — seek to use the power of the Office of the President and other instruments of the federal government in other ways to apply pressure on the head of state and government of Ukraine to advance the President’s personal political interests, including by leveraging an Oval Office meeting desired by the President of Ukraine or by withholding U.S. military assistance to Ukraine?
3.Did the President and his Administration seek to obstruct, suppress, or cover up information to conceal from the Congress and the American people evidence about the President’s actions and conduct?
BREAKING: SCHIFF details questions that witnesses must speak to in order to be considered relevant to impeachment hearings.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 7, 2019
This is meant to guide which GOP witnesses they're willing to call. The questions: pic.twitter.com/lzVxZcbUcj
Schiff is also requiring Nunes to submit “detailed written justification” for each witness requested. In a letter to Nunes, Schiff lists the deadline as “Saturday,” November 8, at 11:20 a.m. However, Nov. 8 is a Friday.
There is nothing in the House impeachment inquiry resolution passed last week that allows Schiff to limit the scope of questions to witnesses. All it says is that witnesses must provide “relevant” testimony. The minority may propose witnesses through the ranking member, and can appeal to the committee as a whole if the chair rejects those. (This resolution, unlike the resolution in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, does not allow the ranking member similar rights to veto witnesses called by the chair).
Schiff and the Democrats could simply vote to exclude Republican witnesses for any reason. By setting out narrow criteria for “relevance,” he appears to be attempting to minimize the political damage from votes by the majority to exclude the so-called “whistleblower” and other witnesses.