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 SchiffTrump on Schiff: 'He will not make the LSU football team' Trump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens 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 CohenDay one impeachment hearings draw 13.1M viewers, down 32 percent from Comey hearings DC bars to open early for impeachment mania Ex-Trump campaign official testifies Stone gave updates on WikiLeaks email dumps 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 ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon 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 TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE following revelations that he pressed Ukraine's president to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California 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) GaetzGaetz wants woman who threw drink at him to serve time Schiff told Gaetz to 'absent yourself' in fiery exchange: impeachment transcript Do Republicans understand the Constitution? 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.