Thankfully, the resolution also provides for questioning by staff, which, as we saw in the House Judiciary Committee hearing with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, is the only effective way to get out the facts. “With focused, sustained questioning by trained attorneys, these hearings can look completely different from the chaotic displays we are all used to on the Hill,” Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesman tells me.
This resolution eviscerates the Republicans’ specious claims about lack of transparency. Whether in Watergate, Ken Starr’s investigation of Clinton, or the Benghazi hearings, investigators first gathered facts behind closed doors and then presented the evidence in open hearings.
It is for this very reason that the resolution does not “authorize” impeachment hearings, a step a federal court judge has already ruled is unnecessary. Republicans are trying to concoct some “fruit of the poisonous tree” notion to invalidate the public hearings (just as they tried to delegitimize the surveillance of Carter Page, who in any event did not trigger the Russia investigation). This is nonsensical insofar as the proceedings to date have been entirely legitimate, and Republicans have been able to sit in on the closed-door hearings and pose questions. There is no procedural infirmity that requires a cure.
The resolution also provides that at the end of the hearings, “The chair shall transmit such report and appendices, along with any supplemental, minority, additional, or dissenting views … to the Committee on the Judiciary and make such report publicly available in electronic form, with appropriate redactions to protect classified and other sensitive information.” The public will see it all, and the Judiciary Committee will then be tasked with the responsibility of drafting articles of impeachment or declining to do so.
Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “The procedures this resolution would put in place are well adapted to bringing the truth to light in a way that respects historical precedent, gives the president and his defenders a full and fair opportunity to challenge his accusers and to present his defense, gives members on both sides of the aisle an equal chance to test the evidence and finally gives the American people the opportunity they have been waiting for to decide whether the sitting president has shown himself to be a danger to the republic.”
Republicans should brace themselves. From the opening statements of witnesses who have already testified and the reports from the hearing room, we have every reason to believe there are multiple, credible witnesses who tell a consistent story that the president not only solicited help from a foreign power in creating opposition research to attack his rival former vice president Joe Biden but that he conditioned a White House visit and delivery of aid (which he intentionally withheld) to get a public announcement of the investigation.
The one witness in the thick of this, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland claimed under oath to having no memory of being rebuked about a quid pro quo although at least three witnesses have testified that he was rebuked for connecting aid and political favors to Trump. (Investigations are conducted privately precisely so witnesses cannot sync up stories in advance.) Sondland, who was reviewing his testimony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, might take the opportunity to shared newly recovered memories. (If not, he might face a serious inquiry for lying or giving false information to Congress.)
As the public absorbs compelling and voluminous evidence of the president’s actions, we will see just how many Republicans decide circling the wagons around Trump is injurious to their political survival. It might not be many, but each one would count as a win for the rule of law and a repudiation of their colleagues’ spinelessness.