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Schiff Invokes Clinton Impeachment Rules in Last-Ditch Effort to Prevent Witnessless Trial


In an effort to ensure the Senate hears at least some new witness testimony before concluding the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, House Manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Thursday proposed that each side be permitted a one-week limited window to take witness depositions. The truncated schedule would mirror the arrangement agreed upon during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which Republican Senators repeatedly referenced as good precedent for a fair impeachment trial.

“I will make an offer to opposing counsel who have said that this will stretch on indefinitely if you decide to have a single witness: Let’s cabin the depositions to one week,” Schiff said, adding, “I think we can. I think we should. I think we must.”

Schiff’s proposition was a response to the argument from the president’s attorneys and some GOP senators who’ve suggested that if the chamber allows any witnesses to testify it will unnecessarily prolong the proceedings for several additional weeks.

“In the Clinton trial, there was one week of depositions and you know the Senate did during that week, they did the business of the Senate. The Senate went back to its ordinary legislative business while the depositions were being conducted. You want the Clinton model? Let’s use the Clinton model,” he said.

Supreme court litigator and former Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal applauded Schiff’s proposal, calling it a “smart offer.”

NYU law professor and former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman echoed Katyal’s sentiment, saying the chamber’s response to Schiff’s proposal would be the “litmus test” for evaluating whether the proceedings amounted to a fair trial.

Also on Thursday, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who was the only Democrat to vote against dismissing the charges in the Clinton impeachment trial, wrote a letter imploring Republicans to allow witness testimony, saying it was part of their duty in upholding the Constitution.

“I understand the position you are in and the difficult decisions you must make. I once took the same oath to do impartial justice that you recently swore to uphold,” Feingold wrote. “As fair-minded jurors, judges, and representatives of the American people, you must hear all the testimony and examine all the evidence possible before casting your vote to either convict or acquit.”

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and Republican lawmakers weren’t having the Schiff argument in favor of new witnesses, claiming that there is no number of witnesses that would satisfy House Managers.

Democrats have requested four new witnesses in particular: former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and the Office of Management and Budget’s Michael Duffey.

[image via C-SPAN screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.