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H.Res. 633: Requiring that all impeachment inquiry related hearings, witness interviews and communications, document productions and examinations, proceedings, and other related work shall be done in an open setting and in public view.

Should all of President Trump’s House impeachment hearings be held in public, or should some parts remain private?

Context

Since the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump was announced in September, debate and controversy has surrounded how that process would play out.

Almost all of the witness testimony so far has been held behind closed doors. On top of that, House Democrats have not yet released any transcripts of the closed-door testimony.

Among the people the House has already requested or subpoenaed to testify — whether they have yet or not — include Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, current Ukrainian Ambassador Bill Taylor, current E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, former Special Envoy Kurt Volker and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

What the bill does

House Resolution 633 would require the House’s upcoming impeachment process be conducted entirely in public. Specifically, the bill mentions hearings, witness interviews, document productions and examinations, and proceedings.

It was introduced in the House on October 16 by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL5).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that a process — and a potential outcome — with such drastic consequences for the American citizenry should be fully exposed to them.

“Democrats are excluding the American people from the entire process,” Rep. Brooks said in a press release. “The American people deserve the right to witness this impeachment process and hear unfiltered witness testimony.”

“But Democrats instead adamantly seek to deny the American people the ability to judge the merits of impeachment efforts based solely on firsthand information, not gossip and hearsay,” Rep. Brooks continued. “The veil of secrecy must be lifted and the selective leaking of deceptive testimony without context must end.”

What opponents say

Opponent counter that secrecy during impeachment hearings, even if it may look bad, actually preserves the legitimacy of the investigation and the evidence.

“If witnesses could tailor their testimony to other witnesses, they [Republicans] would love for one witness to be able to hear what another witness says, so that they can know what they can give away and what they can’t give away, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA28), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “There’s a reason why investigations and grand jury proceedings for example — and I think this is analogous to a grand jury proceeding — are done out of the public view, initially.”

“Now we may very well call some of the same witnesses, or all the same witnesses, in public hearings as well,” Rep. Schiff continued. “But we want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the president or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony — and in some cases, fabricate testimony — to suit their interests.”

Odds of passage

The bill has attracted 38 House cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Ethics or House Rules Committee.

Odds of passage are virtually none in the Democratic-controlled House. According to an ongoing tally compiled and regularly updated by the New York Timesnot one House Republican currently supports the impeachment inquiry.

Last updated Oct 25, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Oct 16, 2019.


This resolution (1) disapproves of the actions led by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to conduct work related to matters of impeachment in a closed and classified setting; (2) requires all impeachment related matters to be done in an open setting and in public view; and (3) demands the Speaker and the chair of each committee engaged in an impeachment inquiry of any kind to give each Member of the House a minimum of 48-hours notice before conducting such matters.