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House Judiciary Committee: Trump Impeachment Inquiry ‘More Transparent’ Than Those Against Nixon and Clinton

The House Judiciary Committee, having passed abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment, released its report on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The Committee declared, among many other things, that this has been the most transparent impeachment inquiry in modern American history.

Chairman Jerry Nadler’s (D-N.Y.) report said that, despite complaints from House Republicans, this impeachment inquiry is more transparent than the inquiries against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

House Democrats emphasized that witnesses’ closed-door testimony has been made public and is available online; there were also public hearings.

“The House’s impeachment inquiry against President Trump was unique in its lack of reliance on the work of another investigative body. Instead, the Investigating Committees performed their own extensive investigative work—and they did so with abundant transparency. Twelve key witnesses critical to the Committees’ investigation testified in publicly televised hearings,” the Judiciary Committee report said. “All transcripts for each of the seventeen witnesses interviewed or deposed have been made public and posted on HPSCI’s website, subject to minimal redactions to protect classified or sensitive information. All documentary evidence relied on in HPSCI’s report has been made available to the President and to the Judiciary Committee, and significant portions have been released to the public as well.”

“Those facts alone,” Democrats maintain, “render this inquiry more transparent than those against Presidents Nixon and Clinton”:

As noted previously, during the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Nixon, not a single evidentiary hearing took place in public. And although transcripts of closed-door witness hearings were subsequently released, notes or transcripts from private witness interviews were not. In addition, the Judiciary Committee relied on voluminous evidence that was obtained through other investigations, including investigations by prosecutors, a grand jury, and the Senate Select Committee. The Judiciary Committee amassed a collection of files from those investigations and maintained them under strict confidentiality procedures. With respect to President Clinton, the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry was based almost solely upon evidence transmitted by Independent Counsel Starr. That evidence was collected in secret grand jury proceedings or through other law enforcement mechanisms. Even after the evidence was transmitted to the Judiciary Committee, not all of it was disclosed publicly. Furthermore, Committee staff conducted non-public depositions and interviews.

And there were reasons for conducting witness interviews behind closed doors:

As the Majority counsel for HPSCI explained in his presentation to the Judiciary Committee, conducting witness interviews in a manner that does not allow witnesses to “line up their stories” is a “[b]est investigative practice.” Closed-door depositions in the present inquiry were necessary during earlier stages of the investigation to prevent witnesses from reviewing one another’s testimony and tailoring their statements accordingly. Indeed, the Judiciary Committee is unaware of any fact-finding process–whether in criminal investigations or administrative proceedings—in which all witnesses are interviewed in full view of each other and of the person under investigation. Nevertheless, HPSCI released transcripts of the depositions it conducted on a rolling basis within weeks of their occurrence. In addition, the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings were conducted in full public view.

Nadler et al. also said that the president and his lawyers were offered–and rejected–an opportunity to participate in the House Judiciary phase of the proceedings. Again, Democrats maintain that these “procedural protections” were both “consistent with” the Nixon and Clinton impeachments and “in some instances” even more generous.

The House’s impeachment inquiry provided President Trump procedural protections that were consistent with or in some instances exceeded those afforded to Presidents Nixon and Clinton. The House’s inquiry was conducted with maximal transparency: transcripts of all interviews and depositions were made public, and HPSCI and the Judiciary Committee held seven days of public hearings. All documentary evidence relied on in HPSCI’s report has been made available to President Trump, and much of it has been made public. Furthermore, during proceedings before the Judiciary Committee, President Trump was offered numerous opportunities to have his counsel participate, including by cross-examining witnesses and presenting evidence. The President’s decision to reject these opportunities to participate affirms that his principal objective was to obstruct the House’s inquiry rather than assist in its full consideration of all relevant evidence.

[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.