“I find the current process illegitimate and dangerous to the future of the presidency”, an aggrieved Graham declared, in a press release.
It was the latest effort on the part of Republicans to attack the process, rather than argue Trump’s case on the merits.
But there’s a problem. There isn’t anything unconstitutional about the proceedings. Something Nancy Pelosi has stated unequivocally on too many occasions to count. If there was, Republicans would have stopped the investigation a long time ago.
Wednesday’s farcical “storming” of a secure briefing room where a deposition was in progress showed just how desperate the GOP really is. Don’t let it be lost on you that for all the hand-wringing about being “shut out” of the process, around a quarter of House Republicans are members of the three panels conducting the inquiry, which means they’ve been allowed to participate in the proceedings since day one.
You won’t hear that brought up very often in the right-wing echo chamber.
Some Republicans may be genuinely frustrated that there’s nothing they can do to stop this train, but the cold, hard reality of the situation is that Pelosi is proceeding in line with House rules and has not done anything unconstitutional. Period.
And yet, the GOP continues to describe the closed-door depositions (which, again, Republicans who sit on the three relevant committees are fully permitted to participate in) in the most ridiculous terms imaginable. GOPers have described the briefing room as a “dungeon” and a “super-secret bunker”. Democrats have been compared to “cockroaches” and an “angry pack of rabid hyenas”. (We know, it’s giggle-inducing.)
Well, on Friday evening, a federal judge ostensibly put this issue to bed, although the opinion won’t do anything to shut Republicans up.
In a 75-page opinion, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington ruled that Jerry Nadler’s House Judiciary committee was entitled to view grand jury evidence collected by Robert Mueller. Normally, Congress wouldn’t be permitted to see that, but Howell believes the gravity of the impeachment proceedings clearly justifies an exception.
“The reality is that DOJ and the White House have been openly stonewalling the House’s efforts to get information by subpoena and by agreement, and the White House has flatly stated that the Administration will not cooperate with congressional requests for information”, the judge wrote.
On October 8, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone delivered an 8-page screed to Congress replete with derisive references to the entirely legitimate inquiry.
“DOJ is wrong”, Howell said, referencing the Justice department’s contention that the redacted information can’t be disclosed to lawmakers. “Impeachment based on anything less than all relevant evidence would compromise the public’s faith in the process”, she added, effectively flipping Republicans’ argument on its head.
Howell went on to say that were it not for the White House’s stated intent to stonewall the proceedings, compulsory disclosure might not be so paramount. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence”, she said.
The administration will probably appeal.
Pelosi was pleased, albeit not surprised. “This critical court ruling affirms Congress’s authority to expose the truth for the American people”, she said, in a statement. “The President will be held accountable – because no one is above the law”.
As for Graham’s Senate “resolution” – which calls for a full vote in the House – Howell delivered an unequivocal message to the American public: “Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry”.
Got that? Republicans who continue to suggest that Pelosi has done something illegal or unconstitutional are lying to the public.
And guess who knows it? Mitch McConnell, that’s who. “[We’ve said] it’s unfair and wrong, not unconstitutional”, he said.
That’s distinct from Trump’s conduct, which, certainty as it relates to Ukraine, is unfair, wrong and unconstitutional.
“This grand jury information that the administration has tried to block the House from seeing will be critical to our work”, Nadler said in a statement.
Judge Howell also chided Republicans for making arguments about the impeachment process that are “cherry-picked”, “incomplete” and lacking Constitutional support. Their arguments aren’t adequately supported by House rules or legal precedent either, she said.
In other words, contrary to Trump’s Twitter feed, Graham’s ranting and the incessant tweets and soundbites from the likes of Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, the Republican position on this isn’t supported by anything – not the Constitution, not House rules, and not court precedents either.
So far, most Republicans are clinging to a patently false narrative. As of last night, the only three Senate Republicans who hadn’t signed Graham’s resolution were Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, all three of whom have made it abundantly clear over the past 14 or so months that they fully intend on staying on the right side of history, come hell or high Twitter rant.
The RNC on Friday adopted a somewhat bizarre resolution stating that the committee “now more than ever wholeheartedly supports” the president amid “a nakedly partisan impeachment investigation”.
Circling of the wagons aside, the inquiry is steaming ahead. Russell Vought, acting OMB director, and Michael Duffey were subpoenaed on Friday after refusing to voluntarily cooperate. Another subpoena was issued to T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State department official.
Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, will speak to House investigators on Saturday.