Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public

Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public
© Greg Nash

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffStone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Overnight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.) said in a letter Wednesday that interview transcripts from closed-door impeachment inquiry depositions will be made public when they do not "jeopardize investigative equities." 

The Dear Colleague letter is designed to counter arguments from Republicans in both the White House and Congress that Democrats are conducting an invalid investigation, since their witness interviews are being held behind closed doors, outside the eyes of the public and lawmakers who don't sit on the three committees leading the investigations.  
 
"At a time that it will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public, subject to any necessary redactions for classified or sensitive information," Schiff wrote. 

"We also anticipate that at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public, so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand," he added. 

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Schiff argued that it was important for the interviews to be conducted privately so that witnesses cannot coordinate testimony.

"It is of paramount importance to ensure that witnesses cannot coordinate their testimony with one another to match their description of events, or potentially conceal the truth," he wrote. "I am particularly sensitive to that issue given that during the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, one witness, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Nadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Michael Cohen taken back into police custody MORE, lied to the Committee about highly relevant issues and ultimately pled guilty for those lies."

He also noted that special counsels in the Nixon and Clinton impeachments investigated privately. 

Schiff wrote that in each deposition, he has made an opening statement and allowed a Republican lawmaker to do the same. Counsels for and members of both parties have questioned witnesses and both parties were given equal representation and time, he wrote. 

"It is necessary to point this out, because the President and his allies have made the false claim that GOP members and staff have been precluded from attending or asking questions — nothing could be further from the truth," the letter said. 

Schiff described the interviews as "professional, productive, and fair."

He said that the House has obtained a call record detailing "the President’s efforts to abuse his office for political gain" and texts between State Department employees showing "the degree to which the apparatus of the Department was pressed into the service of the President’s illicit aim of digging up dirt on his political opponent."

Republicans have made the process a central part of their defense of Trump, arguing that the closed-door depositions break from historic precedent while allowing Democrats to cherry-pick the pieces of witness testimony to release that build the case of presidential wrongdoing.

"Why are they trying to impeach a president of the United States behind closed doors in secret where the public can't see it, the press can't see it?" Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph Scalise4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch Cheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks MORE (La.), the Republican whip, asked Wednesday."Even now members of Congress that aren't on the committees of jurisdiction can't even go read the testimony. What is Chairman Schiff trying to hide from the American people?"

House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE following revelations that he pressed Ukraine's president to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday Biden campaign slams White House attacks on Fauci as 'disgusting' Biden lets Trump be Trump MORE.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has since publicly asked Ukraine and China to look into Biden.

On Tuesday, the president criticized Democrats for, in his view, "allowing no transparency" in the hearings.

"Democrats are allowing no transparency at the Witch Hunt hearings. If Republicans ever did this they would be excoriated by the Fake News," he tweeted. "Let the facts come out from the charade of people, most of whom I do not know, they are interviewing for 9 hours each, not selective leaks."

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Some in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle MORE (R-Fla.), a Trump ally who is not on the committees conducting the investigation, said Monday that Schiff asked him to leave the deposition of a former Trump aide.

"If Adam Schiff and House Democrats were so proud of their work, they would be willing to show it," he said."It's even more troubling when we look at the selective leaks from Adam Schiff, where information will be taken out of context and provided to the press.”

An official working on the impeachment inquiry told The Hill in an email that only members of the three panels working on the investigation are allowed to participate, according to the House rules and the chamber's deposition regulations.

Mike Lillis contributed.