Robert Charles: House Democrats go rogue – abusing oversight for impeachment

The Democrat-led U.S. House is in a panic, stunned and overreacting to Attorney General Barr’s summary of Mueller’s “no collusion” report, misstating law, making wild claims for White House documents, misusing congressional subpoena power, mischaracterizing oversight authorities. They are making a big mistake. Oversight overreach is reckless, but the U.S. House is going rogue.

As a former U.S. House oversight staff director and counsel, having managed countless investigations of Justice, Defense, State and NASA for five years, we focused on waste, fraud and abuse, loss of life at Waco, mismanagement at immigration, defense inventory management, counter-narcotics, interagency coordination – plain vanilla topics intended to make the government work better.

Taxpayer-funded oversight is boring, if sensitive – like work of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Constitutional oversight is not about politics, but accountability. Oversight is about budgets, missions, outcomes and alignment – not impeaching a president, destroying grand jury secrecy, abusing subpoena power, or settling electoral scores.

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In my day, we asked for documents only when needed, which was rarely. We gave a Democratic administration time to produce them, often accommodating White House counter-offers. Subpoena power was seldom used, although always available. We respected institutional prerogatives, separation of powers, executive authorities, the U.S. Constitution and established case law.

None of that is germane today. What is happening is an abomination. Democrat chairmen – and a U.S. House Speaker – are twisting the oversight process to crass political ends, ignoring historical precedents, institutional norms and prerogatives, the Constitution, statutes and case law on a beeline for impeachment.

On Wednesday, Chairman Jerald Nadler, D-N.Y., of the Judiciary Committee led his committee to a party-line vote authorizing a subpoena for the “full, un-redacted report” by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference.

Despite a statutory provision that legally places discretion for the report’s redaction and release in the Attorney General, 28 CFR 600.9, Nadler stated: “This committee requires the full report and the underlying materials because it is our job, not the attorney general’s, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office.”

Despite case law protecting the secrecy of the 5th Amendment grand jury process from Congress, including privacy rights for testimony, witnesses, documents and names, Nadler wants it all. Despite no statutory exception for congressional access to grand jury material under Federal Rule 6(e), Nadler demands it all.

Despite a D.C. Circuit case blocking Congress from grand jury material after Justice produced a finding of “no indictments,” In re Grand Jury Investigation of Uranium Industry, D.D.C. 1979, Nadler wants everything. Nadler also knows another secret. Since Congress is not named in Rule 6(e), if they get their hands on the un-redacted report, witnesses, names, testimony, documents, transcripts and classified material, they can release it all.

Why is Nadler desperate? Because he wants to strip Mueller’s report of context, create a narrative of his own, write one or more articles of impeachment on obstruction, get the Democrat-controlled House to pass it and force an impeachment debacle.

Chairman Richard Neal, D- Mass., of the Ways and Means Committee, is similarly seeking – in a breathtaking departure from past practice and obvious abuse of congressional oversight authority – all the private tax records of President Trump and his businesses from the IRS. Imagine, by comparison, if Republican House members had demanded multi-year tax records of their Democratic colleagues, for transparently political purposes.

Never mind that the president is under audit already, and has been since the Obama administration. Why this abuse of oversight to secure documents, again to which they are not entitled? To feed an impeachment article.

Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., of the House Oversight Committee, meanwhile preemptively subpoenaed a White House staff member last week, seeking testimony and documents tied to White House approval of security clearances. Never mind that the president has full authority to grant such clearances, Cummings wants to subject the White House to withering attack for granting clearances to unqualified appointees.

The hypocrisy of this last subpoena is glaring. Why? Because unknown to most Americans, no member of Congress is required to hold a security clearance, despite likelihood many would not be granted Secret, Top Secret or SCI access – based on past felonies, drug use, infidelity, foreign affiliations, and other disqualifying issues.

That is right, the 23 Democrats on Cummings’ House Oversight Committee – who plan to excoriate White House witnesses on security clearance qualifications, do not hold clearances. That includes Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the avowed socialist, Rashida Tlaib, D-Minn., who uses profanity against thepPresident and swears to impeach him, Jamie Raskin, D-N.Y., who wanted President Trump declared “incapacitated” under the 25th Amendment, and others.

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None of them possess clearances, but all can request and see Secret, Top Secret, SCI and Law Enforcement Sensitive 302’s. Why the rush on clearances, and political hijinks? Why do you think? To frame another article of impeachment, if possible, get the circus in motion.

And that is what is most discomfiting, and should be to every American. The congressional oversight process was not intended to be part of a circus, not meant to be any kind of foil for politically-motivated impeachment proceedings. The process is designed to make the federal government work better, assuring taxpayer dollars are not wasted, misspent, or misappropriated. Somehow, we have gotten far off track. That is because these Democratic chairmen are in a panic. And in a panic, they are making a big mistake. They have gone rogue.

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