After three years of teeth-gnashing about the “shredding of norms,” much of Washington has decided that “process complaints” are invalid. We’ve joined other Beltway media in worrying about President Trump’s regular disregard for the normal way of doing things, but unlike some of our colleagues, we also worry when the Democrats just make up the rules as they go along.
Democrats are increasingly revealing their impeachment efforts as simply a partisan assault aimed at weakening Trump ahead of the 2020 elections. In approving its ground rules for impeachment, Democrats dashed all hopes they would engage in a serious effort, with due process, to investigate Trump’s wrongdoing.
The most obvious sign of Democrats’ unseriousness is the man they put in charge of the investigation.
The House Democratic caucus has 233 members. In a group that large, many members will be role-players. Some members are serious policymakers. Some are mostly communicators. Some are deal-makers. Adam Schiff’s value to his party is his willingness to be a partisan attack dog who is willing to baldly speak untruths to the television cameras.
It is normal and expected for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have Schiff play a role. But to put Schiff in charge of the impeachment process reveals what sort of thing the Democrats are up to — and finding the truth is not the main goal.
The Democrats’ resolution on impeachment explicitly hands the investigation over to Schiff’s Intelligence Committee. This surprises no one.
“They took it away from [Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry] Nadler because they think Nadler’s inept,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at the Washington Examiner’s Political Summit in late October. “They gave it to Schiff because he's more willing to lie, and they put it in Intel so he can hide what's going on.”
Many in the DC media called - in smile - the resolution the “Adam Schiff Empowerment Act.” Giving sole jurisdiction over impeachment to the Intelligence Committee not only empowers Trump, it blocks out the most forceful critics of Schiff’s and Pelosi’s tactics and leaks. Specifically, Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, both members of the Oversight Committee, will now be frozen out of the process and not invited to Schiff’s depositions of witnesses.
“All it does is limit the committees that will be involved in the depositions,” Meadows explained of the resolution.
And of course, the resolution denies any power to the minority party. “To allow for full evaluation of minority witness requests, the ranking minority member may submit to the chair, in writing, any requests for witness testimony relevant to the investigation," the resolution reads. That means that Republicans are perfectly free to beg Schiff to call certain witnesses.
We know how Democrats and the largest newspapers in the US would respond: Cut the weak process complaints, let’s talk about substance.
Diminishing the process, however, is diminishing justice and undermining civil peace.
When Republicans controlled the House, many including this reporter repeatedly chastised the party leadership for its poor process. In crafting the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, GOP leadership tried to skip over the committee process, instead just listening to various voices before crafting the bill behind closed doors. This rid them of the whole mess of having all sorts of votes and debates. Unsurprisingly, the bill failed.
Why? Because without an open and fair process, the folks who don’t get what they want are going to — rightly — have a very hard time accepting the outcome.
Impeachment is a grave thing. It deserves to be handled with care. Yes, politicians often complain about “process” when they run out of other objections. Yes, Trump appears to have acted imprudently vis-à-vis Ukraine.
But Democrats who are creating a rigged process for impeachment need to be asked why they are doing it this way.