GOP congressman's 'fact-check' on impeachment gets almost everything wrong

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The top House Judiciary Republican is spreading lies about the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.

From his position as the ranking minority party member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) has been a fierce defender of Donald Trump since the new Democratic majority began doing oversight of the administration. And in a tweetstorm on Monday, Collins made a number of false and misleading claims under the guise of a fact-check.

Using the hashtag "#MythBustingMonday," Collins tweeted four videos, each purporting to debunk a "myth" about impeachment.

The first "myth" attempted to refute an argument that literally no one had made: that "Republicans have the same subpoena power now as Democrats had during Clinton's impeachment." Collins then lamented that Republicans "can't subpoena witnesses or documents. They can't even for a committee vote on subpoenas."

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But Collins, who was first elected in 2012, is either being very dishonest or very forgetful. The reason that Republicans cannot force committee votes on subpoenas is that then-Republican majority in 2015 changed the rules as part of a GOP power grab.

When House Democrats cried foul at the time, a spokesman for the Republican majority on the Rules Committee answered: "The Obama administration has employed unprecedented delay tactics and in many cases an outright refusal to comply with legitimate committee oversight requests, which is why committees sought the deposition authority and are using the existing rules to give committee chairs greater latitude in issuing subpoenas."

Last year, Politico described the rule change as a "powerful weapon House Republicans handed Democrats." Had Collins found this change objectionable before, he could have said something then. Had they believed the minority should be able to subpoena witnesses, they could have allowed that at any time before losing their majority in the 2018 blue wave.

The second "myth" Collins presents is that "Democrats don't need to hold a House vote to authorize a legitimate impeachment inquiry before voting to impeach the president." His argument is that "nullifying a national election is so severe" that the House has always voted to authorize impeachment inquiries.

While the adjective "legitimate" is certainly subjective, there is nothing in the Constitution nor in the House rules that requires a vote at this stage. This is not the first time an impeachment inquiry has launched without a vote. The impeachment process, which has been used for federal judges and executive branch officials in the past, has begun through the committee process with no full House vote on multiple previous occasions. As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer noted on Friday, both modern presidential impeachment inquiries stemmed from outside counsel investigations, while the Trump Department of Justice has not appointed any outside counsel to examine the Ukraine scandal. Should the majority decide to impeach Trump, as per the constitutional requirement, the full house will absolutely get to vote.

Collins' third "myth" is that an "impeachment inquiry should operate in secret." Again, this is more of an opinion than a factual argument. But his response, that the House has "always given the president's lawyers the opportunity to defend him in public hearings during impeachment proceedings," again ignores that this investigative portion of the impeachment process is unique among the three.

The debunk for his fourth and final "myth" — that this impeachment inquiry is about Trump's attempts to get Ukraine to investigate his political opponents in exchange for promised security aide — is the most ridiculous.

Collins' "fact" response is that "Democrats introduced articles of impeachment in 2017. This is technically correct, but highly misleading. Less than 20 House Democrats backed articles of impeachment in the last Congress, focusing on unrelated matters including Trump's racist attacks, attempts to obstruct justice, and alleged violations of the emoluments clause. These efforts garnered roughly the same amount of support as a GOP-backed resolution to impeach Rod Rosenstein, Trump's then-deputy attorney general.

It was only after Trump released a phone conversation summary showing evidence that he attempted to enlist Ukraine into helping his 2020 reelection campaign by investigating his political opposition that the vast majority of House Democrats backed an impeachment inquiry. The inquiry has thus far been focused on Ukraine, though it could certainly be expanded to Trump's many other alleged illegal acts.

Collins, on his official House website, notes the "integrity that Doug shares with the people of northeast Georgia."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.