House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler’s invitation to (D-NY) has invited President Donald Trump to participate in his committee’s upcoming impeachment hearings, and to have legal representation.
It is a ruse designed to fool the media into thinking that Democrats are offering Trump a fair process.
The president should refuse, and should continue to reject any participation in an illegitimate inquiry that violates every precedent and legal safeguard.
In his Nov. 26 letter to the president, Nadler claimed: “These procedures, and the privileges afforded to you therein, are consistent with those used by the Committee in the [Richard] Nixon and [Bill] Clinton impeachments.”
That is a lie by omission. Those impeachment inquiries were handled entirely by the House Judiciary Committee. Every witness that was called before the House of Representatives could be questioned by the president’s counsel.
In the Trump inquiry, Democrats deputized the House Intelligence Committee — among others — to handle the initial, fact-finding phase of the investigation. They did so because the Intelligence Committee could make use of the Special Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF), which Republicans have taken to calling “Adam Schiff’s basement.” There, Schiff and his committee could “audition” witnesses and control the flow of information.
Chairman Schiff abused his power — most notably in withholding exculpatory evidence, such as the transcript of the deposition of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Mark Sandy. Sandy testified in a closed-door hearing that the only reason OMB officials heard for the withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine was that Trump was concerned that other countries were not contributing.
Schiff did not release that transcript until after public hearings.
The White House was never represented in any of those hearings, and — in another departure from precedent — Republicans were unable to object to witnesses called by Democrats.
That was the critical stage in which the president would have benefited from having legal representation. But those witnesses will not be recalled by the House Judiciary Committee, so the president and his legal counsel will probably not be able to question them.
Instead, the “witnesses” that Nadler plans to call will discuss “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.” In other words, they will be lawyers and academics discussing whether Trump’s “alleged actions” are impeachable. Nadler’s hearing presumes the president has done something wrong, without allowing the president or his lawyers to question the (non-)factual basis of that presumption. There is no indication that the fact witnesses will be recalled.
To top it all off, Nadler ended his letter with an admonition that the president should behave with “decorum,” in keeping with the “solemn nature” of impeachment. And he added a threat: if the president continued to refuse to participate, or to withhold witnesses and documents, the committee would “impose appropriate remedies.”
Nadler does not want to wait for the courts to sort out balance-of-powers questions: punishment first, Constitution last.
Nadler’s hearing is not a “solemn” proceeding, but a joke — a “parody,” to borrow the word Schiff used to explain why he read a fake version of the transcript of a call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. Like show trials in China or the USSR, Nadler’s hearings will mimic due process to hide the fact that the outcome is predetermined.
President Trump has a duty to boycott — and, in doing so, to defend the presidency and the Constitution itself.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.