House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says having the judicial branch weigh in on the impeachment standoff between the House and the White House would be a waste of time.
Schiff made the comment to reporters outside the secure facility where where former national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy Charles Kupperman was scheduled to give closed-door testimony after getting a subpoena from the trio of House committees conducting the impeachment probe against President Donald Trump.
Kupperman filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday asking a judge to clarify whether or not he must comply with the subpoena, citing instructions from the White House not to do so. Kupperman’s lawyer told congressional investigators Monday that his client wouldn’t comply with the subpoena until instructed to do so by the court.
Schiff dismissed Kupperman’s argument, saying that it “has no basis in law.”
“A private citizen cannot sue the Congress to try to avoid coming in when they’re served with a lawful subpoena,” Schiff said. “We expect that the court will make short shrift of that argument, but nonetheless we move forward.”
The White House’s position — as was laid out in an eight-page legal letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone weeks ago — is that the current structure of the impeachment probe lacks “any pretense of fairness” and “even the most elementary due process protections,” and therefore “the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it.” Last week, the argument got some backup from the majority of Senate Republicans who have signed on to an effort to condemn the House Democrats’ process.
Schiff praised other witnesses who have complied with the House’s subpoena despite administration instructions to the contrary and said that he has “confidence” that others will comply with demands to testify instead of waiting for guidance from the courts. He also said that if other subpoenaed officials fail to appear, “they will be building a very powerful case against the president for obstruction — an article of impeachment based on obstruction.”
The chairman was then asked whether or not he expects to address the White House’s policy of non-cooperation with the investigation in the courts or just forge ahead with the investigation despite it.
“In terms of how we will use litigation or not use litigation,” Schiff explained, “we are not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts, so we press forward.”
For those not familiar, the “rope-a-dope” is a boxing tactic famously used by Muhammad Ali in his 1974 fight against George Foreman, in which one fighter pretends to be stuck on the ropes in order to get his opponent to wear himself out with ineffective punches.
The judicial branch is tasked with, among other things, scrutinizing and adjudicating and arguments that arise between the other branches of government and use of their checking powers. Schiff appears to be saying getting a clear ruling on the legitimacy of his closed-door procedure would be a waste of time and energy better spent forging ahead with the process.