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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

The Hill: Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment

October 18, 2019
News Stories

The Hill - Juliegrace Brufke

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on Friday introduced a resolution that would require the committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry to allow outside members of the House to have access to the proceedings, depositions and transcribed interviews. 

Its introduction comes after a group of House conservatives attempted to gain access to a closed-door impeachment hearing on Wednesday. The conservative lawmakers were rebuffed because they did not sit on the House Intelligence Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee or the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

"The stakes are too high for Chairman [Adam] Schiff [D-Calif.] and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi's [D-Calif.] impeachment proceedings to continue in secret. The American people's elected representatives have been denied access to relevant documents and the opportunity to attend depositions and transcribed interviews,” Scalise said in a statement.  

“Chairman Schiff wants to impeach President Trump behind closed doors and clearly has no intention of conducting a fair and open process. We demand transparency. For the sake of our republic, Members of Congress must have access to proceedings with such monumental and dangerous consequences,” Scalise added.

Under the resolution, no member, delegate or resident commissioner could be denied access to the proceedings or documents. 

GOP lawmakers have been highly critical of Democrats' process since the formal inquiry launched four weeks ago, accusing the left of taking an unprecedented approach to impeachment. GOP members claim the proceedings lack transparency and they allege members across the aisle are “cherry-picking” the information released in an attempt to sway public opinion in their favor.  

In a fiery exchange with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on the House floor Friday, Scalise alleged that Democrats had implemented a rule change that allowed the Ukraine whistleblower to submit a complaint using second-hand information.

“The way the standard for being a whistleblower used to be: first-hand information. Secretly, days before the whistleblower complaint was filed, after going to Chairman Schiff's staff and working with partisans to develop the whistleblower complaint, they changed the rules for even designating what is a whistleblower so it could allow second-hand information,” Scalise said. 

“Who changed that rule? We would be curious to find out. You don't want us to find that out because you are holding all this in secret. Shouldn't we know what's really going on and what's behind this so-called whistleblower complaint that's been debunked?”

Scalise was referring to claims from Republican lawmakers and Trump allies that rules regarding whistleblower complaints had been changed shortly before the complaint against Trump's Ukraine call was filed. Republicans had questioned whether the rules were changed to allow the whistleblower to proceed with only second-hand information.

Last month, the intelligence community inspector general pushed back on those allegations, issuing a release specifying that the whistleblower complaint on Ukraine was reviewed under rules put in place well before on May 2018. 

On Friday, Hoyer shot back at Scalise, denying that Democrats are conducting an unfair inquiry. He argued that valid concerns were raised in the whistleblower complaint that warrant a congressional probe.

“We're going to continue to have what we believe are fair, proper, consistent with the rules, consistent with the Constitution of the United States, consistent with the laws of the United States of America, to find out whether this president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, and then when we conclude an answer to that question, every member of this House will have availability of all the information,” Hoyer said, noting that Schiff sent a letter stating that once all the witnesses have testified members will have access to all of the information. 

“What he doesn't want is to have the witnesses reading each other's testimony and parroting it," the majority leader added of Schiff. "That's a fair thing, to make sure that we don't have one witness just simply adopting the testimony of another witness. We want the truth, not parroting of other information. So I would hope we can move on.” 

The measure faces an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled lower chamber. 

Online: The Hill