In 2015, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) loudly condemned Republicans for the way they led the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He claimed that effort was politically motivated, an effort to help Republicans win in 2016. He condemned Republicans for allegedly: not setting up rules for the committee; not setting the scope of the investigation; not allowing Democrats to issue or vote on subpoenas; and orchestrating “selective leaks” to help their narrative. Does any of that sound familiar?
In the current impeachment inquiry, Democrats have: refused to hold a House vote to begin the inquiry; refused to allow Republicans to issue subpoenas; not clearly set the scope of the investigation; and orchestrated selective leaks to bolster their narrative — while carrying on the investigation behind closed doors. House committees are controlled by the majority and do not have to grant the minority equal rights and privileges, but Schiff vocally condemned Republicans for allegedly acting then just like Democrats are acting now.
In other words, 2015 Schiff should be incensed at the actions of 2019 Schiff.
“I fear that this is really just politically motivated. Obviously they think this will be advantageous in terms of the presidential election,” Schiff said four years ago. “Let’s establish rules for the committee. Let’s establish rules so that we can vote on subpoenas.”
He complained that Republicans “wouldn’t even establish rules. Why? They want to run this the way they want it. … My guess is they don’t even know themselves where they want to go from here. And this has been much of the problem all along which is we’ve asked them okay whaat’s the scope of the investigation, what issues are we going to look into.”
“We can’t set up a hearing, we can’t issue a subpoena! We can’t even vote on a subpoena,” Schiff complained. He also complained about “selective leaks by the committee, by the chairman.”
“That, frankly, is a really you know destructive and yet again a partisan exercise,” he added. “I say all this because I never want to see this happen again.”
SURE. He “never wanted to see this happen again,” except four years later.
There are also key differences between the Benghazi investigation and the current impeachment inquiry. House Republicans actually held a full vote of the House to set up the House Select Committee on Benghazi. On May 8, 2014, the House voted 232-186 to set up the committee, with 225 Republicans and 7 Democrats voting in favor. While Republicans have demanded a say in the impeachment inquiry from the beginning, Democrats did not commit to participating in the Benghazi committee. Schiff called the investigation a “colossal waste of time,” and urged Democratic leaders not to appoint any members because the whole exercise was “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Only later did Schiff change his tune and complain about being excluded from the process he so loudly condemned.
Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one, so Democrats are not held to specific rules of due process. However, there is longstanding precedent on impeachment and if Democrats railroad Republicans and Trump, refusing to grant him due process rights he would enjoy in a court of law, their inquiry will rightly be dismissed as a political attack, rather than an investigation for the good of the American people.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.