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Ranking Republican Cole Opening Remarks from H. Res. 660 Original Jurisdiction Markup

As prepared for delivery during today’s markup:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me begin by frankly reiterating what you said in terms of keeping this process civil and professional and fair and open.

I agree with another sentiment you expressed and that this is a very sad day – It’s a sad day for me personally. I certainly and I doubt anybody here ran for Congress with the idea that they would ever be involved in an impeachment inquiry. I certainly never thought I would be. For the Rules Committee, and for the institution of the House of Representatives.  We’re meeting today to set forth a process for impeaching the President of the United States – not a fair process, not an open process, not a transparent process – it’s been limited and closed and frankly I think we are moving toward a preordained result.

Over the past month, several House committees have been engaged in what has been called a “formal impeachment inquiry.” Of course, there was nothing formal about it other than the Speaker saying so.

The House never voted to conduct such an inquiry, and the committees have operated in the dark, without formal authorization, on what amounts to nothing more than a fishing expedition.

At least today the majority is admitting what we all know: that the House was not following an appropriate process for impeachment. But I do not think the process we are setting forward, frankly, in all due respect to my friend the chairman, in this resolution is a fair one, either. It is not fair to the President of the United States and it is not fair to the people of the United States.

The process laid out in the resolution before us is different from the process used for both President Nixon in 1974 and President Clinton in 1998.  Both Presidents were given substantially more due process and protections than what this resolution gives to President Trump today.  And in the case of President Clinton, that was a Republican House of Representatives affording the Democratic President of the United States more due process than the current Democratic House is affording this Republican President.

First, both Presidents Nixon and Clinton were given the right to have counsel present, to review documents and materials presented to the Committee, to recommend witnesses, and to cross-examine witness when appropriate. Counsel for both presidents were fully participants in the Judiciary Committee’s hearings and were allowed to make arguments. And more importantly, in both cases the president’s counsel’s request for witnesses to testify was accommodated. That has certainly not been the case thus far in this process.

Today and in today’s resolution, there is no such right for President Trump to have counsel in any of the depositions, hearings, or inquiries that have been conducted thus far.  So, we’re well into the process without the President have been given the right to participate in it. The process for him has been fundamentally unfair.  This resolution includes nothing that would give him that right going forward.  On a matter as serious and solemn as this, we cannot leave important factors like the right to counsel to the whim of a committee chair, which is exactly where it would fall under this resolution. 

Second, in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, the minority was given the co-equal right to subpoena witnesses and documents.  The purpose of this was to ensure that the investigation would be “fair, impartial, and bipartisan.”

Today’s resolution differs from the Nixon and Clinton precedents in a key way: the resolution does not provide for a co-equal subpoena power. Instead, it grants the minority the right to subpoena witnesses and materials only with the concurrence of the chair, and the requirement that such subpoenas be “deemed necessary to the investigation.” That is a heck of a situation when you get to decide what is necessary for an investigation. There was no such limitation during the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings as it was similar.  And as a simple matter of fairness, it is important to note that there is no such limitations on the committee chair. If this is truly a bipartisan process, why, then, is the minority subject to such restrictions on its ability to participate while the majority is certainly not?

I think the differences between this procedure and the procedure followed in the past are very clear.  Today’s resolution fails to give the President the right to due process that Presidents Nixon and Clinton enjoyed, and it fails to preserve the right of the minority to fully participate in the proceedings.

But this resolution also differs from the Nixon and Clinton resolutions in another key way: both of those previous resolutions were written in a bipartisan manner with full consultation with the minority. We were not involved in any way in the construction of the resolution that we are considering today. It was dropped on us with a twenty-four-hour notice. This committee has not had a hearing about the procedures and how we should go. We simply are presented with this sort of fully made out of whole cloth. This resolution is frankly again not bipartisan and done with full consultation of the minority. This resolution today was written only by the Democrats, without even a pretense of consulting with Republicans. I didn’t even see a copy of this resolution until it was released publicly.

Mr. Chairman, we can certainly do better than that and better than what we’re doing today.  When President Nixon and President Clinton were impeached, the process was a collaborative one.  The minority was allowed to participate fully and equally. The President was given the right to have counsel present and participating. That preserved the rights of the minority, preserved the rights of the president, and ensured that due process was the touchstone for the House.

Without due process, and without a fair process that respects minority rights, I do not believe the American people will regard this process as legitimate. A legitimate process is one that offers protections for everyone involved.  And without those protections this will be seen as just another partisan exercise, one the majority has been pushing toward since the first day of the 116th Congress. That is unfortunate and I hope we can do better than that but certainly look forward to the hearing today and we intend to participate as fully as allowed.

Thank you.

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