Opinion / Politics

House Impeachment Vote Does Not Undo Secret Star Chamber

impeachment

The partisan House impeachment vote on October 31, formalizing the process and seeking to “normalize” unprecedented practices, does not undo the harm.  House leaders are badly off track – beginning with use of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) to conduct secret depositions. What we are witnessing is the Old English Star Chamber – and it endangers American democracy.  Here is why.

In 1975, the House Intelligence Committee was formed to investigate illegalities by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Secrecy was justified only by the need to review classified material. 

Throwing HPSCI’s cloak over impeachment has no justification.  Questions posed are not on classified material.  In fact, the seminal July 25, 2019 call transcript between President Trump and Ukraine’s President has been released – by the White House.

Of course, proper use of HPSCI would be investigating misdeeds by CIA and FBI during the 2016 election.  But that will not happen, as House leadership refuses to hold a Democrat Administration accountable. 

Instead, HPSCI has been diverted to impeachment, purview of Judiciary.  In effect, another non-partisan institution has been yoked to politics.  This time, it is serious.  This move has the potential for long-term damage.

So far, HPSCI has secretly interrogated 15 witnesses – including four Ambassador-rank former officials (Marie Yovanovitch, Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, and Bill Taylor), two Assistant Secretaries and two Deputy Assistant Secretaries (Kathleen Wheelbarger, Phillip Reeker, George Kent and Laura Cooper), three White House staff (Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman, and Catherine Croft), an advisor to the Secretary of State (Michael McKinley), acting Director of National Intelligence (Joseph McGuire), inspector general (Michael Atkinson), and acting Director of OMB (Russell Vought).       

Their pattern is clockwork.  Witnesses are cherry-picked, and secretly pumped for dirt.  Depositions are conducted without an attorney for the accused president, without collateral subpoena power by an aggrieved minority, and without due process.  No uninterrupted cross-examination or power to object to questioning. 

Depositions are premised on hearsay (i.e. the anonymous “whistleblower complaint,” ironically coached by a HPSCI staffer), while objections to leading questions, witness speculation, false assumptions, or political remarks indicting or insulting the president are considered immaterial.

Each secret interrogation is followed – as if scripted – by the tick-tock of selected media releases.  Contravening rules on release, much as the Obama FBI did, tantalizing bits of adverse, anonymously sourced testimony turn into the next day’s headlines. 

Despite the exculpatory nature of some witnesses, their appearances are cast in the worst light by committee members, who seem to have cultivated an echo chamber of the media.

In short, this committee has become a Star Chamber, the exact thing our forefathers framed our Constitution to avoid.  While impeachment is political, the process was never meant to be secret, substitute for an election, or oust an unpopular president.  Most presidents have been unpopular.

Our Founders would not have imagined a secret committee tasked with bringing down the president – working their will behind closed doors, asserting facts they do not have, aiming to disenfranchise the public.  They trusted the public.

They could not have imagined Congress dropping due process – a principle for which they fought – to advance crass political ends.  They abhorred secret interrogations and would have spoken up against a House conjuring an impeachable offense to reverse an election.

Net-net, enormous damage is being done to our political system by turning the Intelligence Committee into a Star Chamber – a place for secretly vetting impeachments.  Unlike a grand jury, which protects witness identity and has unbiased jurors, the Democratic House is using secrecy as a political foil. 

Far from protecting witness identity, they have leaked testimony – a criminal act for grand jurors.  Rather than unbiased legal review, secrecy promotes their political bias.  The justifications that permit secrecy for a grand jury do not work here.

In short, by lashing intelligence to impeachment, this House has normalized secret proceedings.  That has implications for America, and the next Democratic president facing a Republican House.  Back comes the Star Chamber, which allowed secret proceedings for political oppression. 

Today’s impeachment vote aims to normalize the process.  It does not cure the wrong – any more than repaying a bribe or apologizing for assault.  The damage is done.  If this charade continues to impeachment, Katie bar the door.  The damage to our Republic will be serious.

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Read more articles by Robert B. Charles

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Marsha Dobson

So is there anyone person or group that has power to stop this nonsense? What can WE THE PEOPLE do to reign this in and stop this process?

Dennis L Shaver

Government has taken power from the people and they have become a “ruling” class. This battle is about he soul of America, All the Democrats want is “the power”.

D. Hooper

I am angry that the “Republican” senate doesn’t do more to stop this unconstitutional atrocity. The Senate Republicans will also be held accountable for their complacency. If this sham is successful in ousting the President, there will no doubt be a major civil war in this country. Patriotic Americans will not accept it.

‘Nonymus

Time to bring this whole witch hunt to an immediate halt and prosecute those involved !

BajaRon

The left is so pathetic. They preach ‘Tolerance’ but are completely intolerant of anyone with a different view. They preach that ‘No one is above the law’. But it only applies to those who oppose them. They claim that they are for the poor and down-trodden. Yet every location ruled by the left has a far greater amount of these very things than any other location in America. With no prospect of recovery for their citizens. While locations run by conservatives consistently do much better for the poor under their jurisdiction. The continually declare that they want ‘Transparency’. But they have no problem doing whatever they want under cover of secrecy. And why not? It allows them to lie with immunity. And they always seem to get away with it while many ‘Republicans work out a way to cave to their demands. Someday, Americans may wake up. I just hope… Read more »

Stephen Russell

No prior impeachment was ever done in secrecy UNTIL now, Thanks Dems.

Carl Woods

The Democrats HAVE TO IMPEACH this president or their misdeeds (think DNC and Hillary) during the 2016 election — the use of the FBI, CIA and a foreign intelligence officer (Steele) to thwart the election of Trump and afterwards the use of a bogus Russia dossier to discredit and impeach him — will be found out and heads will roll. Plus the obvious misdeeds of the last VP to enrich his messed up kid via China, Ukraine and only God knows where else. And of course the DNC’s role of aiding Hillary’s election via a DNC operative in Ukraine falsifying Russian dirt on Trump with help from the fake news media. What a mess.

Rick J.

Day after day, the democrats are proving why, they should never again be allowed to regain power.

Ed J

Prima facie evidence that the inmates are running the asylum. If this odious process weren’t so serious, it would be totally laughable as high entertainment. This whole impeachment sham is obviously being well choreographed as “theatre” to play out over time leading up to next year’s elections. The obvious goal is to taint the President in the minds of the mindless (i.e., low informed voters) with the hope of winning the next election and taking absolute control of the government (Presidency and both houses of Congress, with the Supreme Court to follow). The Dems know they don’t have anything substantive to offer the American people, so they have moved on to Plan B (or C, or D, etc.) to essentially hoodwink prospective voters. Gee whiz! Let’s all vote for free stuff (Medicare for all, no-cost college, everything green, and on and on ad nauseum). Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984, Democrat… Read more »

Waite Cathy

I agree completely. The democrats are turning our country socialistic. We need the Republican Party to stand up and fight this. Giving slur for slur if necessary. No one can honestly hold our President responsible for anything because since even before he was elected they – through all media sources – criticize and Put down anything he has tried to do. It’s impossible for anyone to accomplish significant progress for our country with these democrats who are actually ruining our country. Watch for a large Exodus of decent people From our country if democrats continue on their current path to the ruin of our USA. They do Not have our country’s or people’s best interests in mind – only their own!

Patricia

With all the crazy protests that go on, we need to start one at the white house to “stop the impeachment nonsense”

Diana

Then this needs stopped immediately why has no. One stopped this illegal garbage close it down prosecute those that are breaking the Law and anyone else involved this socialist garbage has to stop and thrown out of our government NOW the Senate or the Supreme Court needs to stop this injustice NOW any impeachment need to be public that way the People can have a say in this we voted for this President and we are entitled to hear and see the evidence and if we agree not just these corrupt lying politicians

R shoemaker

Meanwhile, the President forges ahead with his promises. Dow and S&P hit an all time intraday record high this morning. How does he do it?? Bill Clinton was paralyzed during his Impeachment hearings. DIMs don’t care about our great economy. they had rather destroy it than see an political outsider in the office

Kay Maxwell

The Democrats have gone too far. Do we really need a Democratic Party?

Cathy Witthoeft

This is not only frightening but horrendous to imagine what this is doing to our Republic. How can we stop it now and turn their bad intentions around?

Annie

What is being done by our House and Senate and the Justce Department to file suit against these proceedings?

dennis wells

this is far from over,barr and durham have the goods on all these characters and then some.i believe we will see the tables turned on these traitors in the near future.i agree that there will be a huge uprising if these criminals succeed in ousting a duly elected president on bogus charges.the democrats hate america,and don’t forget,there are a lot of democrats in republican uniforms in congress.pray for trump and this nation.

J. FARLEY

TOO SAVE OUR COUNTRY , WE HAVE TRIED THE SOAP BOX, WE HAVE TRIED THE BALLOT BOX , THERE IS ONLY ONE BOX LEFT IF THE ANTI-AMERICAN SUCCEED IN THE OVER THROW OF OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE !

Uncle willie

This can all stop if the party that would like to impeach the president had to pay for it . The people of America should write there government and tell them that we are tired of paying for junk that they want and not we the people.

Doyle

All I know is they spend a lot of
time and money on blah blah blah blah blah !