House Democrats just unveiled a formal resolution of impeachment inquiry that will create a new and different way of holding public hearings that appears guaranteed to end Republican grandstanding and games. (document embedded below)
The new resolution will formally designate six committees of the House as part of the impeachment hearing, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did in her late September public announcement, but there are two major twists guaranteed to infuriate House Republicans.
What’s new includes special procedures for public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee that will end the universally despised 5-minute per member format for questions and a provision that will slap the handcuffs on minority Republicans looking to cause trouble by forcing them to submit witnesses in advance so they can be screened for relevance to the witness or investigation. It will also give House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) the ability to direct the first 90-minutes of each public hearing and use staff attorneys to question witnesses if he chooses.
“Chairman Schiff’s steady leadership gives House members confidence in the proceedings and gives the president due process he has asked for,” says a source familiar with the Speaker’s thinking about the particulars of the resolution. “As a prosecutor, Schiff knew how to present a case without passion or prejudice – two emotions abundant in cable news but anathema to professionals.”
Here are some of the key provisions of the House impeachment resolution:
1) The chair of the Permanent Select Committee shall designate an open hearing or hearings pursuant to this section.
2) [U]pon recognition by the chair for such purpose under this paragraph during any hearing designated pursuant to paragraph (1), the chair and ranking minority member of the Permanent Select Committee shall be permitted to question witnesses for equal specified periods of longer than five minutes, as determined by the chair. The time available for each period of questioning under this paragraph shall be equal for 3 the chair and the ranking minority member. The chair may confer recognition for multiple periods of such questioning, but each period of questioning shall not exceed 90 minutes in the aggregate. Only the chair and ranking minority member, or a Permanent Select Committee employee if yielded to by the chair or ranking minority member, may question witnesses during such periods of questioning. At the conclusion of questioning pursuant to this paragraph, the committee shall proceed with questioning under the five-minute rule…
3) To allow for full evaluation of minority witness requests, the ranking minority member may submit to the chair, in writing, any requests for witness testimony relevant to the investigation described in the first section of this resolution within 72 hours after notice is given for the first hearing designated pursuant to paragraph (1). Any such request shall be accompanied by a detailed written justification of the relevance of the testimony of each requested witness to the investigation described in the first section of this resolution.
The resolution also directs that the previously secret deposition transcripts should be made public, and it requires the House Intel Committee to issue a report to the House Judiciary Committee, an ominous point for Trump since that panel generally tasked with drafting Articles of Impeachment.
A last major point of the House impeachment resolution that it will give House Intel ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA) limited subpoena powers, subject to approval by Chairman Schiff and a process for challenging the California Democrat’s decision if he denies the Republican request, with a vote by the panel. If those votes happen on partisan lines, the cow-obsessed Nunes won’t be bothering anyone for records to prop up his diversionary conspiracy theories.
This proposed new impeachment procedure will effectively mute the House Republican noise machine we’ve become accustomed to seeing at earlier this year at public hearings where the President’s subordinates present evidence of his crimes.
Trump’s allies in the House won’t be allowed to hijack the start of a public hearing by trashing the witness.
Republicans also won’t be allowed to call distraction witnesses like we saw last year when the House Judiciary Committee called white-nationalist linked black propagandists “Diamond and Silk” to a hearing on social media. They also won’t be able to target random or innocent people with the impeachment inquiry’s enhanced subpoena powers.
By giving them equal time after Chairman Schiff’s initial 90-minute questioning period, House Republicans can’t complain that they’re not getting an equal chance to ask witnesses questions in public, but it’s hard to imagine that we won’t know their entire story by then, reducing the theatrical value of grandstanding.
“Swing district Members who were unnerved by the [former Trump campaign manager] Lewandowski sideshow,” says the source familiar with Speaker Pelosi’s thinking on holding more efficient public hearings, “are relieved by Schiff’s calm demeanor and insistence that individuals yield their time to professional investigators.”
Conveniently, three weeks ago the Congressional Research Service just published a lengthy treatise on impeachment for anyone with any questions about the process to draft a bill that will send the President into a Senate trial for removal.
All in all, President Trump might not have expected that Speaker Pelosi would call his bluff on holding a public vote.
But now he’ll have to deal with a looming block of very public impeachment hearings where his favorite carnival sideshow barkers on the House Judiciary Committee won’t get the chance to distract the proceedings and witnesses against him will have to answer to the savvy House Intel Chairman Schiff.
Here’s a copy of the House impeachment resolution:
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition