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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 SchiffCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin 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 CohenProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Outrage grows as Justice seeks to contain subpoena fallout Stormy Daniels says her attorney is in contact with prosecutors investigating Trump Organization 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 ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment 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 TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE following revelations that he pressed Ukraine's president to look into Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine 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) GaetzKinzinger: Conspiracy theory FBI planned Jan. 6 example of 'legacy of Trump and Trumpism' 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol Florida congressional candidate says opponents conspiring to kill her 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.