Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., didn’t mince words at a news conference on Thursday as he touted his resolution formally condemning House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, saying the proceedings defy historical precedent and deny fundamental “due process” to the White House.
“If we were doing this, you’d be beating the sh– out of us,” Graham bluntly told a reporter at one point, accusing Democrats of selectively leaking testimony from their closed-door hearings, without affording Republicans the opportunity to subpoena or publicly cross-examine witnesses. “And, I think it says a lot about people in your business, with all due respect.”
He continued: “We’re not telling the House they can’t impeach the president. What we’re telling the House is, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. … This is one part legal, and two parts politics.”
Graham, who said his resolution had 41 Republican cosponsors “and climbing,” noted that 31 Democrats had voted to open an impeachment inquiry into Bill Clinton in 1998. But, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has refused to hold a vote on beginning proceedings against President Trump, and instead unilaterally announced that the inquiry had begun.
The move to put House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in charge of the inquiry was only a small part of Democrats’ “substantial deviation from what the House has done in the past,” Graham asserted, noting that the Judiciary Committee has typically handled impeachment probes.
Seeking to bolster his commitment to administrative fairness, Graham noted that he previously supported legislation that would have protected then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being terminated by Trump.
“The attempt to open an inquiry into the impeachment of President Trump failed miserably, so they’ve created a new process, which I think is very dangerous for the country,” Graham told reporters.
Graham’s resolution specifically called on the House to vote immediately to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry; and demanded that the House “provide President Trump, like every other American, with due process, to include the ability to confront his accusers, call witnesses on his behalf, and have a basic understanding of the accusations against him that would form any basis for impeachment.”
The resolution also “calls on the House of Representatives to provide members of the minority with the ability to participate fully in all proceedings and have equal authority to issue subpoenas and other compulsory process.”
In his own statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced he would cosponsor’s Graham’s resolution, and outlined what he characterized as Democrats’ transgressions.
“Unlike the House’s actions during investigations of both President Nixon and President Clinton, this House majority is denying President Trump important rights and due process protections,” McConnell wrote. “House Democrats are even denying their own Republican colleagues basic procedural rights that the minority party was granted throughout previous impeachments.”
Dozens of House Republicans said they took the dramatic step to storm the closed-door deposition of Defense Department official Laura Cooper on Wednesday because Democrats’ impeachment inquiry hasn’t been transparent, even as Democrats selectively leaked some testimony and evidence to the media.
Graham initially criticized his Republican colleagues for the tactic, at first calling them “nuts” to make a “run on the SCIF,” or the secure area on Capitol Hill where the deposition was being held. “That’s not the way to do it,” he said.
Later in the day, though, Graham issued what he called a “correction.”
“I was initially told House GOP took the SCIF by force – basically like a GOP version of Occupy Wall Street,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “Apparently it was a peaceful protest. Big difference. I understand their frustration and they have good reason to be upset.”
The impeachment inquiry has been led by three committees made up of both Democrats and Republicans, but members of Congress not on those committees have not had access to any of the sensitive documents or interviews relating to the probe. Republicans also have not had co-equal power to subpoena witnesses or pursue evidence in the probe.
“If we pulled this stunt, you’d be eating us alive,” Graham said at the news conference. “How many people have asked me about [diplomat] Bill Taylor’s opening statement? If we had Rudy Giuliani’s opening statement, and he said he did nothing wrong, I doubt that you would accept that. 47 Republican House members feel like it’s not working for them. They feel like [Kurt] Volker’s testimony has been selectively released, [Rep. John] Ratcliffe’s cross-examination of Taylor is not available to you. … There’s a way to do it.”
Graham also defended the White House’s shifting responses to the impeachment inquiry — capped by the administration’s announcement that it would not cooperate at all.
“I know this sounds weird, but Clinton — look what he did. He had a team that was organized, had legal minds that could understand what was being said … and they were on message every day. President Clinton defended himself, but he never stopped being president, and I think one of the reasons he survived is that the public may not have liked what the president had done, but believed that he was still able to do his job.”
Just hours after the Republicans stormed Cooper’s deposition, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, separately kept the pressure on Democrats by pushing for more transparency — including public testimony from the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment probe.
In an initial letter to Schiff on Wednesday, Jordan — joined by House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul, R-Texas — called for the whistleblower to come out of hiding, so that his or her “sources and credibility” could be “fully assessed.”
The committee chairs noted that Schiff previously had promised that the whistleblower would provide “unfiltered” testimony “very soon” concerning an Aug. 12 complaint.
But, the Republicans charged, Schiff abruptly “reversed course” after reports of the whistleblower’s potential political bias emerged, along with evidence that congressional committee staff had spoken to the whistleblower before the complaint was filed.