GOP ranking member: The first witness we'll call to testify on impeachment before the Judiciary Committee is Adam Schiff

GOP ranking member: The first witness we'll call to testify on impeachment before the Judiciary Committee is Adam Schiff

Let me rephrase: The first witness they’ll attempt to call is Adam Schiff. The wrinkle in Doug Collins’s plan is that the rules passed by the House for the Judiciary phase of the impeachment process are similar to the rules for the phase that was conducted by Schiff’s committee. Nothing happens without Democratic approval:

(c) (1) The ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary is authorized, with the concurrence of the chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, to require, as deemed necessary to the investigation—

(A) by subpoena or otherwise—

(i) the attendance and testimony of any person (including at a taking of a deposition); and

(ii) the production of books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents; and

(B) by interrogatory, the furnishing of information.

If Nadler says no, Collins is entitled to demand that the full committee vote on his request. Considering that Democrats enjoy a 24-17 advantage on Judiciary, how do you suppose the vote will go?

Although this bid to have Schiff testify is destined to fail (unless Schiff wants to tesitfy, I mean), it’s basic good strategy for two reasons. First, it suggests that Democrats have something to hide. Why, oh why, would the man whose office was in contact with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed be reluctant to answer questions under oath? Why would a committee dominated by Nadler and other Democrats be reluctant to approve a request to force him to do so? Collins is doing what any lawyer holding a weak hand on the facts would do, trying to put the process on trial instead. “If he chooses not to” testify, he says of Schiff in the clip below, “then I really question his veracity in what he’s putting in his report.”

Second, teasing the possibility of Schiff testifying is a morale booster for Republicans for the Senate stage of impeachment, when the GOP will have the gavels and could potentially call him. Interestingly, Schiff didn’t call Ron Johnson to testify during the House hearings even though Johnson was a factual witness who’d spoken to Trump directly during the Ukraine process. Maybe Schiff decided not to do that out of courtesy to a fellow lawmaker, with Johnson choosing to publish a letter detailing his memories of the Ukraine aid process instead. Or maybe he feared that Johnson would be an *effective* witness for Trump, which would screw up the Democrats’ plan to use public hearings to build public support for impeachment. (Which, er, didn’t work.) Either way, the Senate GOP will be in a similar position soon vis-a-vis Schiff. Do they return the favor he did for Johnson by not calling him to testify, maybe allowing him to send a letter describing his office’s interactions with the whistleblower? Or do they call him as an act of revenge on Trump’s behalf, the Grand Inquisitor suddenly forced onto the hot seat himself? Schiff was effective in delivering his closing statements during the Intel Committee hearings. There’s a risk that putting him on the stand would backfire on Republicans by giving him a platform to rail against Trump, just like there was a risk that calling Johnson would backfire on Schiff by giving Johnson a soapbox to defend the president.

The other hot topic in this morning’s Chris Wallace interview with Collins was the timeline on Judiciary Committee hearings. It goes like this: Schiff’s report on Ukraine will be submitted to Nadler tomorrow; Judiciary members will have just 24 hours to review it before voting on Tuesday not on whether to approve the findings; then the committee will hold its first hearing on impeachment on Wednesday, featuring constitutional experts testifying on bribery and abuses of power; and then on Friday Nadler wants an answer from Trump on whether he’ll be sending any lawyers to represent him at next week’s hearings. That’s a *lot* going on in the span of five days. How are we supposed to vote on the report and prepare for Wednesday’s hearing, wondered Collins, when we’ll have had only one or two days to review Schiff’s report? The witnesses Nadler is planning to call at the hearing are still unknown as of Sunday morning, in fact, a point which Wallace himself raised with Democrat Hakeem Jeffries in the second clip below. Team Blue really want this process over with soon, it seems, and they’re willing to put everyone on an expedited schedule to make it happen. Whether that’s because they’re worried about further erosion in the polls or because they’ve concluded that minds are fully made up on both sides and therefore a more diligent process aimed at persuading people is pointless, only they know.

The outcome in both chambers is certain so we might as well get on with this sh*tshow ASAP, right?

Exit question: Is Trump going to accept Nadler’s invite to have his lawyers question witnesses at the hearings? Even some pro-Trump Republicans in Congress think it’d be a good idea.

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