By: Jim Sensenbrenner & Steve Chabot in the Wall Street Journal
Tensions ran high 20 years ago as we stood in the well of the Senate before Chief Justice William Rehnquist, all 100 senators and the nation. As House impeachment managers, we presented our case against President Clinton. We were somber but confident, knowing that we had afforded Mr. Clinton every due-process right to defend himself.
Now we find ourselves on the verge of another presidential impeachment. But this time the process is so fundamentally unfair that justice cannot be served. For the past two months, House Democrats, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, have conducted a sham investigation with predetermined conclusions. It will do unthinkable damage to the credibility of the House and to the nation.
Since President Trump took the oath of office, Mr. Schiff has led a quest to overturn the 2016 election. We have both worked with Mr. Schiff on the Judiciary Committee, and one of us (Mr. Sensenbrenner) has managed two judicial impeachments (of Samuel B. Kent and G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ) alongside him. While in those cases he was fair and reasonable, here he has let his blind hatred of the president poison his conduct and destroy his credibility.
For more than two years, Mr. Schiff misled the public about having clear evidence that Mr. Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the election. Special counsel Robert Mueller found no such evidence. Mr. Schiff then set his eyes on the next “scandal.” A seemingly too-good-to-be-true report appeared, accusing the president of improper action. Mr. Schiff took to cable news to propagate the new narrative, but it soon began to crumble. We learned that the biased “whistleblower” had contacted Mr. Schiff’s committee before filing his report, and Mr. Schiff lied about it.
Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decreed the House to have begun an impeachment inquiry and Mr. Schiff launched three weeks of closed-door hearings. He played judge and jury, selectively leaking private testimony to fuel a smear campaign. In blatant disregard of congressional practice, he has prevented elected members from asking certain questions of his “star witnesses.”
The American people saw through this charade, and Mrs. Pelosi brought the rules for this process up for a vote last week. But it’s too little and too late.
The rules resolution falls woefully short of the Constitution’s due-process standard. Every American has the right to hear all evidence presented against him, face his accuser directly, and mount a defense. We made sure to afford Mr. Clinton these rights in 1998-99.
The president’s counsel must have the right to participate in all impeachment proceedings. The congressional minority must have an equal right to call witnesses, subpoena documents and cross-examine witnesses.
Last week’s resolution is an absolute failure to protect those rights. It permits Mr. Schiff to continue with his closed-door depositions, and it grants him sole authority to decide which information is relevant, which witnesses can testify and which evidence will be transferred to the Judiciary Committee.
When the Intelligence Committee turns over the proceedings to the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Jerry Nadler will then have the authority to deny the president’s counsel access to evidence, the ability to cross-examine witnesses and the full ability to participate in other ways. It’s laughable to claim that’s fair or impartial.
Americans should be concerned about the denial of fundamental constitutional rights to the president of the United States. If it can happen to him, whom can’t it happen to?
From day one, the Democrats have had their sights set on impeachment and have charted a process that could only lead to that end. By denying due process to this president, Democrats have delegitimized the House and its constitutional powers, and have done irreparable damage to the country.
Messrs. Sensenbrenner and Chabot, both Republicans, represent Wisconsin’s Fifth and Ohio’s First congressional districts, respectively.