- - Sunday, December 22, 2019

When during the Nixon administration then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino embarked on what he described as the “extremely grave questions, which seriously preoccupy the country” of impeaching a president he had only one preconceived notion from which he dared not deviate — “whatever the result — we are going to be just, and honorable, and worthy of the public trust.”

It was only after I ran major congressional investigations in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that I fully appreciated the wisdom of Peter Rodino. 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff — the undoubted leader of the Democratic impeachment effort — knows all of this — and knows it well. He is a very skilled Harvard-trained lawyer. He has more knowledge of, and experience with, impeachment proceedings than almost any sitting member of Congress. 

But to Mr. Schiff, California Democrat, and the Democratic leadership, President Trump had to be impeached by Christmas — at all costs.  Laws and the foregoing principles fairness of that interfere with this edict must be cut down. Why? The Articles of Impeachment charge: (1) obstruction of Congress; and (2) and abuse of power. But Mr. Schiff has so biased and twisted the impeachment proceedings that, in the height of irony, he stands condemned by his own mouth of the same transgressions for which he will prosecute the president.  

On this record it is Mr. Schiff, who has obstructed Congress and abused his power — not the president.

Mr. Schiff (ironically) obstructed his own proceedings by repeatedly taking acts he knew (or should have known) were unlawful to prevent witnesses from testifying to relevant facts.

During the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Republican counsel and members attempted to ask the witness questions regarding whom he spoke to after the July 25 call. These sorts of questions are the bread and butter of discovery and were routinely asked by Democratic counsel and members as to other witnesses and events. 

Mr. Schiff repeatedly interrupted this questioning — at times even when Lt. Col. Vindman’s counsel made no objection — and instructed the witness not to answer the questions. Lt. Col. Vindman appeared under subpoena; the compulsion of that instrument required him to answer all relevant questions put to him, unless a claim of privilege was raised. Mr. Schiff’s order was illegal on multiple grounds and contrary to previous positions taken by the House’s own lawyers.

During Lt. Col. Vindman’s testimony in public session, Mr. Schiff doubled down his unlawful instruction.

House Resolution 660 clothed Mr. Schiff with unprecedented power to shape impeachment proceedings. And Mr. Schiff used that power to suppress evidence the relevance of which he does not challenge, and to control member questioning in a manner that is unprecedented. But that was not enough — Mr. Schiff went farther and abused his power.

On the sixth day of his hearings, Mr. Schiff concluded the hearing, and then refused to concur in Republican requests for subpoenas related to the whistleblower, Burisma and Hunter Biden. Under House Resolution 660, that action required Mr. Schiff to “promptly” convene the committee for a business meeting “subject to the notice procedures for a committee meeting under” applicable House rules.

House rules require 72 hours notice for a committee meeting. But Mr. Schiff ignored these House rules and immediately called up votes to table (i.e., kill without debate) the Republican requests for subpoenas. He then repeatedly refused to even recognize points of order from a Republican member trying to call this violation of House rules to his attention. 

Mr. Schiff led the charge for the obstruction article which charges the president with obstruction for the acts of properly and timely objecting to congressional subpoenas based on: (1) the illegality of those subpoenas; or (2) an assertion of a constitutional privilege. 

Mr. Schiff has literally asserted the president should be impeached for merely asserting an Executive Branch privilege asserted by every president — Democratic and Republican — since President Truman or raising legal objections thereto. That position is an extraordinary abuse of power — even Joseph McCarthy did not dare assert it at the height of his abuses of power. 

There is “overwhelming” evidence of obstruction and abuse of power that came out of the House Intelligence Committee hearings. But the guilty party is Mr. Schiff — the Democratic member who perhaps above all others should know better. “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for [Impeachment]?”

• Samuel Dewey is a lawyer and former senior staffer who led investigations in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

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