Tuesday, May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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Herrera Beutler: Impeachment inquiry ‘a farce’

3rd District congresswoman joins rest of GOP by voting no

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of the 194 House Republicans who on Thursday morning voted against launching a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The vote was 232-196, with two Democrats voting against the package and one independent voting for it. The rules lay out groundwork for lawmakers in the House as public hearings begin, ultimately on whether to recommend Trump’s removal from office.

In a statement posted to her Facebook page, Herrera Beutler called House Democratic leadership’s actions “a farce,” claiming that Thursday’s resolution was “limiting due process rights, fairness to all sides, and full access to information.”

The resolution lays out a two-part impeachment process: In the first, the House Intelligence Committee — which until this point has been hearing private depositions — would hold at least one, but possibly multiple open hearings to take public testimony. The Intelligence Committee would then compile a report based on its findings, and pass it along with transcripts and any additional evidence to the House Judiciary Committee.

The second phase, before the Judiciary Committee, would allow Trump’s lawyers to present a formal defense and cross-examine witnesses. The Judiciary Committee would ultimately decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, is not a member of either committee.

The ability of the president’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses is contingent on Trump reversing course and halting his current strategy of not cooperating with the investigation. It’s a point of leverage Democrats hope will halt Trump in his pledge to fight all congressional subpoenas.

The latest inquiry largely follows the road map laid out in impeachment investigations in 1998 and 1974.

As in the past, the minority party can subpoena witnesses and evidence during hearings, but the majority party can block those subpoenas if they disagree that hearing from those people is necessary. A blocked subpoena is then to go before the entire committee for a vote. The process will apply to both phases of the investigation, in both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

In her Facebook post, Herrera Beutler said the impeachment inquiry into Trump was “enormously different” from impeachment inquiries into presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

She protested against the House Intelligence Committee taking the lead role in the investigation, instead of the Judiciary Committee, where impeachment investigations have traditionally been conducted.

“The secret hearings in the Intelligence Committee will continue without the presence of the president’s counsel to question or request evidence to be admitted,” Herrera Beutler wrote.

“The House Intelligence Committee, which holds its meetings in a top secret facility, will have the lead role in this investigation and is required to hold only one public hearing with a witness of Chairman (Democratic Rep. Adam) Schiff’s choice, and again without the presence of the president’s counsel.”

In the second phase of the inquiry, the collected evidence will go before the Judiciary Committee and the president’s lawyers will have the chance to mount a defense.

Herrera Beutler also took issue with the majority party’s ability to quash subpoenas from the minority party.

“The Democratic chairmen of the relevant committees can unilaterally subpoena witnesses, but the Republican ranking members of those committees can only subpoena witnesses with the permission of the chairmen,” the congresswoman wrote.

This procedure follows a similar precedent that was laid out in past impeachment inquiries. In the past, the chair and minority ranking member of investigating committees shared co-equal subpoena power. However, subpoenas were still subject to a vote of the committee, so the majority party did have the option to block them.

In her post, Herrera Beutler also criticized the provision that would allow the Judiciary Committee to pull cross-examination rights from Trump’s lawyers if the president continues to choose not to cooperate.

“What limited rights are granted to the president and his counsel in the Judiciary Committee can be taken away at any time by Chairman (Democratic Rep. Jerrold) Nadler,” Herrera Beutler said.

The congresswoman’s vote against the impeachment inquiry contrasts with a conversation she had with The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Oct. 9, in which she called on the House to formally open an impeachment inquiry and grant subpoena power to the minority party.

During that interview, she specifically pointed to the impeachment proceedings surrounding Clinton, when the House granted both Democrats and Republicans the ability to subpoena witness testimony and evidence.

“If they (Democrats) really believe they can prove it, then why not let us subpoena people?” Herrera Beutler asked earlier this month.

In a press release, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticized Herrera Beutler for voting against an inquiry she’d previously expressed support for.

“Jaime Herrera Beutler has to pick a side and state clearly and unequivocally whether she supports getting the facts through a transparent process, or sweeping the truth under the rug,” DCCC spokesman Andy Orellana said in the release.

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