Impeachment prosecutor draws Republican ire
WASHINGTON — There is no Archibald Cox or Ken Starr to be found in President Donald Trump’s impeachment. So it’s up to Adam Schiff to build the case.
While those independent prosecutors launched the investigations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, there is no comparative figure in the House impeachment inquiry.
Former special counsel Robert Muller led the Russia probe, but no new prosecutor has been tapped by Attorney General William Barr for the Ukraine matter.
That leaves House Democrats with only a whistleblower’s complaint rather than boxes of investigators’ evidence to guide them.
“Congress has to do that,” Schiff said, because the Justice Department believes “there’s nothing to see here.”
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is leading the probe at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and proceeding like the prosecutor he once was, staging a grand jury-like process that has been pilloried by Republicans.
As Schiff works behind closed doors to build the case, Republicans accuse Democrats of waging an unfair — and according to the White House, illegitimate — investigation. But Schiff says the House has few other choices than to build the case on its own.
Working from the outside in to collect evidence, Schiff is probing Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats in the 2016 election and the family of his 2020 rival, Joe Biden. That means private hearings, keeping the witnesses separated, and the depositions closed, to prevent people from coordinating their testimony or concealing the truth.
“The special counsels in the Nixon and Clinton impeachments conducted their investigations in private and we must initially do the same,” Schiff wrote in a letter to colleagues this week.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., praised the work of House Democratic investigators but contrasted their resources with those of Mueller, who had a bigger budget and assistance from the FBI.
Cleaver said officials caught up in the Ukraine probe “ought to be thankful we have to use our own investigators. If we had the use of the FBI, things would be turning up daily. Something happens when the FBI shows up.”
Republicans complain the investigation denies due process to the president and subpoena power for the minority party to call its own witnesses.
“Adam Schiff is not a prosecutor in this case,” said Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, but he’s “acting like one and doing it in secret without fair rules.”