Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Monday pledged to release “all” transcripts from the testimony provided by impeachment inquiry witnesses but refused to say when.
His comments came in response to criticism from Republicans who have said testimony given to House investigators should be made public. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has so far refused to release any of the transcripts from the impeachment inquiry depositions.
The press has gained access to bits and pieces of testimony through leaks. Republicans have accused House Democrats of cherry-picking and mischaracterizing evidence.
“I do think that it is important to conduct as much [of the impeachment inquiry] as we can, when we can, in open session. Of course, all of these transcripts are going to be made public,” Schiff declared during an interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Then, the moderator — New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof — asked, “In what period?”
I don’t want to give myself a date, but we want to make sure that we lock down the testimony of people before they can see what others have said, before it influences their own testimony.
But it will be important to bring the country along for the investigation. To have witnesses testify in open session to let the people evaluate the credibility of witnesses. … Some of the witnesses we interviewed in closed session we may bring back in open session.
Schiff’s comments about releasing the transcripts echoed recent remarks by Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Democrat-led House Committees on Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs are conducting the impeachment probe.
During the interview Monday, Schiff defended having impeachment inquiry witnesses give their deposition behind-closed-doors. He argued that the process is akin to a “grand jury,” despite it not being a criminal trial.
The Democrat congressman said:
We’re doing these initial hearings in closed session and it makes a lot of sense to do that when you’re conducting an investigation because I’m sure the White House would like nothing more than to be able to get their story straight by hearing what these witnesses have to say. And there are good and important investigative reasons not to let one witness know what another witness has said.
When pressed by the moderator on whether a grand jury is the best model to pursue, however, Schiff conceded that the analogy is “imperfect,” adding:
I think you’re absolutely right that using the criminal law analogy is an imperfect one and indictment and grand jury are an imperfect analogy. … So, yes it is a political process and there are good reasons that part of that process should be conducted in the public eye, but I will tell you no two impeachments are alike.
Schiff also responded to Republican criticism that the impeachment inquiry process is unfair, noting that he has granted GOP lawmakers the opportunity to cross-examine his witnesses. Republicans, however, are not allowed to call in or issue subpoenas for any witnesses.
“The Republicans are equally represented at every interview, deposition, and hearing,” Schiff argued. “They ask every question they wish to ask, and so they’re given fair and ample and equal opportunity to question these witnesses.”
He also blasted Republicans for talking to the press about the testimonies as they complain about leaks, saying:
The Republicans who are complaining – and I have to chuckle — they leave the interviews in the middle of the interview and go out to the press and speak about the interview as they’re complaining about leaks. It really is breathtaking. I give them credit for the most incredible “chutzpah.”
During the interview, Schiff was also cagey when pressed to speculate about an eventual vote on articles of impeachment. He said such a move depends on the Trump administration’s efforts to stonewall House Democrats.
“There’s been no decision made whether we bring articles or what the articles would look like,” he said.