Opinion

FARRELL: Trump Impeachment Reminds Of British ‘Star Chamber’ For Oppressing Political Opponents

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Chris Farrell Judicial Watch

There are reasons for the due process guarantees enshrined in the Constitution. And if you want insight into those reasons, look no further than California Rep. Adam Schiff’s secret impeachment process. Schiff is a liar, and now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to ask the House to rhetorically swear to his lies in a resolution slated for a vote this Thursday. Doubling-down on corruption is the hallmark of the anti-Trump left.

The investigation Schiff is secretly stage-managing is akin to the types of sham judicial proceedings common in England in the middle of the last millennium. Schiff’s procedurally bizarre and legally abusive “inquiry” has all the characteristics of the notorious Star Chamber, an institution used by the British Crown to oppress and terrorize political opponents while claiming to uphold the very rights and processes it destroyed.

It was a political weapon operating in secret with carefully selected, sometimes coerced (i.e., tortured) or coached witnesses, that hauled up defendants on subjective and elastic charges like sedition, libel and “heresy,” which could be warped to fit the outcome being sought. If pressed, the Star Chamber could punish people for acts it deemed “morally reprehensible” even though technically legal.

Starting to sound familiar? The American tradition of due process evolved as an antidote to these types of arbitrary proceedings that were used to oppress the same groups of religious and political dissenters who founded our nation. The Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination is a direct response to Star Chamber tactics where no such right existed, forcing those facing a sham trial to either admit their guilt to a made-up crime, commit perjury if they tried to argue their innocence, or be charged with contempt if they remained silent. General Michael Flynn’s ears are probably ringing.

House Democrats have been using or threatening to use all these techniques in their political vendetta against President Trump. They hold their proceedings in a secure basement facility, they exploit the whistleblower laws to keep witnesses anonymous, they do not allow the accused or his legal representatives to question the witnesses. And all we can know about the process is what they decide to let us know.

But this is not enough for some. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) has suggested that the House needs to “go all out” in coercing witnesses, and those members of the administration who choose not to cooperate with this sham process should be held in “inherent contempt” and “march[ed] off to our little jail” to “sit there and cool off for a while.”

Inherent contempt is a little-used “hurry up” process that allows the legislature to seize and detain, or more commonly fine those who offend it. This affront to habeas corpus rights has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the past and may soon be tested again. This is the background to Attorney General William Barr’s humorous barb at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a Capitol Hill event last spring, “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?”

As with the Star Chamber, it is unclear what supposed high crimes are being investigated. Most of what has been selectively leaked tells the story of Congress weaponizing mere policy differences with the White House seeking to disrupt the old ways of doing business. Or Democrats trying to protect a former vice president whose son was involved in shady dealings in Ukraine. Or, most likely, an attempt to overshadow what promises to be the political scandal of the century when the Obama administration’s criminal abuse of federal intelligence and law enforcement powers to rig the 2016 election is revealed. But the process is reminiscent of another English excess our founders banned, the Bill of Attainder, a legislative judgement of guilt that overrides the separation of powers and denies those subject to it due process.

Now Democrats propose voting on a House Resolution, “Directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry.” This is a pathetically transparent attempt to retroactively inoculate Schiff, et al. from their earlier abuses, and possible criminality. The House resolution is craftily drafted with weasel words, extraordinary deference to the whims of the chairmen (Schiff and Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler and procedural “outs” to continue to deprive the minority of any real participation.

It would be refreshing to see a semblance of due process entering what so far has been an unprecedented and particularly ugly chapter of the militant left’s and deep state’s rolling coup against President Trump. The House Resolution will no doubt pass with a party line vote. It will be useful to see who the witnesses are, what the alleged crimes are, and to know why the country is going to be dragged into this kabuki impeachment fiasco.

We know the answer to the last part; as Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said, “if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.” History may show the impeachment guaranteed President Trump’s reelection.

Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group. He previously worked as a counterintelligence case officer.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.