On Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a letter demanding she suspend the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump until she guarantees certain basic requirements of precedent and due process.
“I am writing to request you suspend all efforts surrounding your ‘impeachment inquiry’ until transparent and equitable rules and procedures are established to govern the inquiry, as is customary,” McCarthy wrote. “As you know, there have been only three prior instances in our nation’s history when the full House has moved to formally investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for impeachment of a sitting President.”
“I should hope that if such an extraordinary step were to be contemplated a fourth time it would be conducted with an eye towards fairness, objectivity, and impartiality,” the minority leader added. Sadly, it seems Pelosi is not conducting the process in this manner.
“Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed — including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed,” McCarthy argued. “In addition, the swiftness and recklessness with which you have proceeded has already resulted in committee chairs attempting to limit minority participation in scheduled interviews, calling into question the integrity of such an inquiry.”
McCarthy posed ten questions to Pelosi, suggesting that unless she answered “yes” to every question, her impeachment inquiry would be entirely tainted. Such an inquiry would deny Trump “the bare minimum rights granted to his predecessors” and “create a process completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy.”
First and foremost, the Republican leader asked, “do you intend to hold a vote of the full House authorizing your impeachment inquiry?” In 1998, the U.S. House authorized the impeachment inquiry into Bill Clinton, 258-176. In 1974, the House authorized an impeachment inquiry into Richard Nixon, 410-4.
When Pelosi announced her impeachment inquiry last Tuesday, she did not call for a vote of the full House to officially begin the inquiry. This allowed Democrats to have their cake and eat it too. They could claim to be pushing impeachment without taking the risky step of having an official vote, which could make Democrats in red or toss-up districts more vulnerable in the 2020 election.
This may be savvy politics, but it is also extremely unfair to the president, given the precedents on impeachment. If the House of Representatives is moving forward with impeachment, the president deserves to see just how many congressmen are willing to put their jobs on the line to have him impeached.
McCarthy also asked whether Pelosi intended to allow Republicans, as well as Democrats, to issue subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. Many of his questions centered around giving access to President Trump’s counsel — his lawyers — in the impeachment process.
Do you intend to provide the President’s counsel the right to attend all hearings and depositions?
Do you intend to provide the President’s counsel the right to present evidence?
Do you intend to provide the President’s counsel the right to object to the admittance of evidence?
Do you intend to provide the President’s counsel the right to cross-examine witnesses?
Do you intend to provide the President’s counsel the right to recommend a witness list?
During the confirmation battle for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats denied Kavanaugh a central part of due process: the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Given the long history of Democrats trying to delegitimize President Donald Trump, starting the night of his election, it is important for Pelosi to protect the president’s due process rights in this process. Impeachment is political, but that does not justify violating the basic rights Trump has as an American citizen.
The Biden campaign has asked the media to blacklist Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer. It is entirely fair to ask Pelosi if she will allow Giuliani to lawfully engage in the impeachment defense.
Powerfully, McCarthy also asked Pelosi whether Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is “in charge of leading this inquiry, as has been reported in the press.” Schiff received early notice of the whistleblower complaint on which the impeachment inquiry is based, before the complaint was even filed! Schiff also read fake quotes from the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, twisting that call to make it seem worse for Trump.
Democrats have constructed the inquiry around the claim that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden’s potential corruption in Ukraine in order to hurt former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. They claim Trump used an implicit quid pro quo — making vital U.S. military aid conditional on an investigation into Hunter Biden.
Yet Democrats are far from clean when it comes to pressuring a foreign government — Ukraine in particular! — to investigate their political enemy, Trump. In May 2018, Democratic senators sent a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, asking him to reopen investigations into Trump related to the Robert Mueller probe.
Schiff himself told Russian pranksters he would take dirt on Trump from Ukraine.
Perhaps if Democrats wish to impeach Trump for a specific action — rather than for just being Trump — they should find some act of wrongdoing they have not themselves engaged in. Just an idea.
Even if Democrats do extend Trump the due process he deserves, this impeachment inquiry will remain the fastest and most premature such effort in American history.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.