House of Representatives committees are about to begin a series of public hearings as part of their effort to impeach President Donald Trump. In preparation for this phase of the investigation, Republicans were invited to submit a list of individuals they believe should testify, setting up the inevitable fight over how much influence the House Minority will have over the proceedings. Some of the names on the GOP wish list have already been rejected by Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Thus far, all witnesses called to testify on Capitol Hill have appeared behind closed doors, with only the members of the joint committees present, along with a select group of staffers and counsels, though the transcripts of those hearings have, for the most part, now been made public.
Who Republicans Want to Call
Among those requested by GOP representatives were Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Nellie Ohr, who worked for the research firm that in 2016 hired former British spy Christopher Steele to compile opposition research on then-candidate Trump, and – most notably – the so-called whistleblower who filed a complaint about the nature of the president’s recent phone conversation with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Also on the list, according to reports, is Alexandra Chalupa, who was allegedly contracted by the Democratic National Committee to obtain dirt on Trump and his campaign associates from Ukrainian sources. Information provided by individuals in Ukraine led to the criminal conviction of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Clearly, the Republican strategy is two-fold: First, to make the impeachment inquiry about what happened in 2016 – the attempt by the Clinton campaign to use opposition research, provided by foreign sources, to influence the presidential election. Second, to use Schiff’s inevitable rejection of some of the GOP’s requested witnesses to paint the entire impeachment effort as a purely partisan exercise from which all exculpatory testimony will be excluded.
In a letter to Schiff, who is essentially leading the impeachment investigation, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) laid out the Republican case for delving into potential Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election:
“Given President Trump’s documented belief that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election to oppose his candidacy, which forms the basis for a reasonable desire for Ukraine to investigate the circumstances surrounding the election and any potential Ukrainian involvement, Ms. Chalupa is a prime fact witness who can assist Congress and the American public in better understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.”
In response to the request that Hunter Biden be called upon to testify, Schiff warned Republicans that he would not allow the inquiry to serve as “a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the president pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit … “
Schiff may have a point, to be fair: Though the Biden-Ukraine affair is certainly an issue worthy of investigation by the Ukrainians themselves – who are struggling with a culture of corruption – Hunter Biden’s former position with Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, has no direct relevance to the question of whether or not Trump himself committed impeachable offenses.
Likewise, the matter of Democrat attempts to use uncorroborated, foreign-sourced allegations against Trump to throw the 2016 election to Clinton is something of a separate issue: Again, though, it is an issue deserving of a meticulous investigation.
Whistleblower Must Testify Publicly
The idea, however, that the intelligence community whistleblower – who, in reality, does not fit the correct definition of a whistleblower – would not be required to publicly testify is a much harder pill to swallow. Every reasonable American should be concerned that a sitting president could possibly be removed from office as the result of an investigation sparked by an anonymous individual from whom the public will never hear.
As Rep. Jim Jordon (R-OH) wrote in a recent USA Today op-ed: “[A] fundamental tenet of due process is the ability to confront one’s accusers. On a matter as grave as impeachment, Americans should assess for themselves the credibility and motivations of the individual who initiated the inquiry.”
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