If I were a sarcastic person, I’d congratulate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her House Democrats — not for succeeding in passing H. Res. 660, the impeachment-ground-rules-authorizing resolution with only two defections (passage was a foregone conclusion), but for pulling a fast one on fairness with a simple misdirection play.
Not to suggest that passing H. Res. 660 itself wasn’t a sneaky maneuver — it was. For instance, under the guise of instituting “fair” ground rules for the impeachment inquiry already underway, the House has now passed a resolution that cuts from 110 to just 22 the number of members of Congress who can hear secret testimony going forward. And stalwart Trump defenders like Congressmen Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Lee Zeldin have been removed from the hearings because they don’t sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and therefore are no longer authorized to take part in the hearings.
But that’s not the worst of it. Not by a long shot.
While all the political world was focused Thursday morning on the action taking place on the floor of the House of Representatives — where members had gathered to consider and cast their votes in support of or opposition to H. Res. 660 — the real action had already taken place earlier in the week, when no one was paying attention. That’s when House Democrat leaders released a second document, with ground rules to govern the conduct of the House Judiciary Committee’s proceedings when it gets its hands on whatever comes out of the Intelligence Committee’s “investigation.”
Unlike the language of H. Res. 660, the Judiciary Committee ground rules were not the subject of a vote by the full House. They were not even the subject of a vote by the full Judiciary Committee. They were simply dropped into the public realm Tuesday night, hours after the media had been distracted by the text of H. Res. 660.
So few reporters paid heed to the unveiling of the Judiciary Committee paperwork that since its release, the number of major media outlets reporting on it can be counted on one hand.
Even a quick glance at the three-page document reveals why the House Democratic leadership wanted to slip these ground rules into place without anyone noticing.
There, on page three, tucked into the third-to-last paragraph, is this: “Should the President unlawfully refuse to make witnesses available for testimony to, or to produce documents requested by, the investigative committees listed in the first section of H. Res. 660 in furtherance of the investigations described in the first section of H. Res. 660, the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the President or his counsel under these procedures to call or question witnesses.”
In other words, if President Trump declines to hand over documents sought by any of the six House committees now engaged in the impeachment inquiry — say, for example, the personal tax returns sought by the Ways and Means Committee, or the Deutsche Bank financial papers sought by the Financial Services Committee — then House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler can use his “discretion” to deny Trump and his counsel access to the impeachment proceedings.
So much for President Trump’s right to due process. Under these ground rules, if he fails to turn over his personal tax returns or the paperwork on his company’s financial dealings with a particular bank, Nadler can refuse even to let Trump’s counsel hear the witness testimony, let alone cross-examine witnesses.
Can Democrats explain exactly what the president’s personal tax returns, or his company’s financial dealings with a bank, have to do with House Democrats’ current investigation into his dealings with Ukraine?
Of course not. Because neither his personal tax returns nor his company’s financial dealings with a particular bank have anything whatsoever to do with his dealings with Ukraine.
Democrats are not playing a fair game. They introduced and then muscled through a ground rules resolution that is lopsided on its face, and hid from a vote a second document that rips any shred of fairness from the ongoing charade.
Polls in battleground states show public opposition is growing to Democratic efforts to overturn the results of the 2016 election. I’m betting that by this time a year from now, one week out from President Trump’s reelection, Pelosi and her cronies are going to be wishing they had taken a different route — a route that did not include a trip down the impeachment trail.
Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.