Schiff to handle impeachment witness testimony in break from precedent

WASHINGTON — Democrats will hold public hearings with key impeachment investigation witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee, multiple congressional sources tell Yahoo News.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., released a statement after Yahoo News first reported this news confirming that “open hearings … will be conducted by the House Intelligence Committee as part of the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.”

Under past precedent in 1974 and 1998 — the last two times the House conducted an impeachment inquiry — the Judiciary Committee was the hub for investigations, hearings and a committee vote on articles of impeachment.

Democratic aides involved in the current impeachment effort say their model is not actually different from that of 1998, when independent counsel Ken Starr conducted an investigation, followed by House Judiciary hearings.

The Judiciary Committee will still play a significant role. It will be the venue in which President Trump’s counsel will become part of the House impeachment process, having an opportunity to “Present their case and respond to evidence; Submit written requests for additional testimony or other evidence; Attend hearings, including those held in executive session; Raise an objection to testimony given; and Cross-examine witnesses,” according to a fact sheet sent out by Democrats.

But there have also been widely reported tensions between Pelosi and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., for some time, dating back to the speaker’s belief that Judiciary staff were pushing the party too fast toward impeachment over the previous year.

When Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry in late September, there was widespread talk among House Democratic leadership aides that the bulk of the work would be done by Schiff, which so far has been the case.

Adam Schiff
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

And so a House resolution that will be voted on this coming Thursday will lay out procedure for how the Intelligence Committee, which usually operates largely behind closed doors for national security reasons, will hold witness testimony in a public hearing.

There are certain limitations on normal Intelligence Committee procedure that will need to be eased for the panel to hold these hearings, one House Democratic leadership source told Yahoo News.

The resolution will also spell out that the Judiciary Committee will still handle articles of impeachment, meaning they will hold hearings on the language of the articles and will vote on whether to send them to the full House for a vote.

But the decision to hold the most dramatic hearings in Schiff’s committee is a strategic move to try to keep the impeachment process focused. The Intelligence Committee is much smaller than most other House committees, with only 22 members compared to 41 in Judiciary and many other committees.

The Judiciary Committee is also home to some of the most outspoken and confrontational Republicans, such as ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ky., and others.

Impeachment investigation witnesses, who have yet to be named but who are presumably on the list of names already interviewed in closed-door depositions, will testify instead in front of Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, like Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York and Will Hurd of Texas, who are more moderate and focused on policy.


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