Utah Rep. John Curtis introduces measure to open impeachment transcripts to all members

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks at the Utah Republican Party's 2019 Organizing Convention at Utah Valley University in Orem, May 4, 2019. Curtis, who has had access to closed-door impeachment inquiry hearings, now wants transcripts and tapes made available to all members.

Washington • Rep. John Curtis says all House members should have access to any recordings or transcripts of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, at the same time slamming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for calling for a vote Thursday to set the ground rules for an already monthlong investigation.

Curtis, a Utah Republican and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has had full access to the closed-door depositions of White House and national security officials. A resolution he introduced Tuesday proposes giving every House member access to the hearing tapes and transcripts currently limited to members of the three committees probing Trump.

His move comes two days before Pelosi, D-Calif., is planning a vote to set the guidelines for the inquiry, launched after a CIA whistleblower came forward warning that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a current presidential candidate, and Biden’s son Hunter.

At the time of the July call, Trump was withholding U.S. military aid to the Ukraine, and others involved have alleged he was leveraging a White House meeting with the country’s president contingent on it launching an investigation into an energy company Hunter Biden was involved with and also into allegations about interference with the 2016 election.

Curtis said Tuesday that it’s wrong for Democrats, who control the House and the inquiry, to restrict depositions to only those on the committees involved — an argument many House Republicans have made since the probe began and one used when about two dozen GOP members stormed and disrupted a closed-door hearing last week.

“Each member of Congress, regardless of their party or committee assignments, has the duty of representing their constituents with all available information,” Curtis said Tuesday. “Without access to all the information from an oversight investigation, including transcripts, this is impossible. That is why I am proud to introduce this resolution to require that all members — instead of just a select few — have access to transcripts of classified hearings at the same time, including those relating to impeaching the president.”

Democratic leaders have signaled that they will release the transcripts to the House and publicly at some point in the inquiry and have set a vote Thursday to establish procedures on hearings going forward.

The Democrats’ plan, as outlined, gives House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., control over the questioning of witnesses and blocks members from two other committees that had also been investigating — Foreign Affairs and the House Oversight and Government Reform committees — from participating directly.

The move would also allow House Republicans to request and subpoena their own witness testimony and documents, subject to approval of Schiff’s committee. The same process was used in the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton when the GOP controlled the House.

Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, introduced the resolution Tuesday, saying it will provide a “clear path forward” for the inquiry.

“While the president and his allies try to obstruct our investigation and cover up his wrongdoing, the House will continue to do its job and uncover the truth for the American people,” McGovern said in a statement. “The resolution I introduced today outlines the next steps in this inquiry, including establishing the procedure for public-facing hearings conducted by the Intelligence Committee and the process for transferring evidence to the Judiciary Committee once they are completed. The president’s Republican allies in Congress have tried to hide the president’s conduct, but the American people will now see the facts firsthand.”

The White House this week said that Pelosi was “finally admitting what the rest of America already knew — that Democrats were conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the president due process, and their secret, shady, closed door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate."

The U.S. Constitution gives the House a free hand in determining its process for impeachment, and the House has not had any rule requiring public hearings in an impeachment inquiry.

Curtis, the former Provo mayor, said he hadn’t been able to attend all the impeachment inquiry hearings — even though he was allowed — because of other congressional responsibilities. And he complained that the impeachment inquiry resolution was rushed through before members could read what might be released and that to adopt guidelines in such a manner could harm the process.

“In order to make the best decision on my vote on behalf of Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, I believe I will need to review the transcripts of each testimony,” Curtis wrote Monday to Schiff, who will oversee the investigatory part of the impeachment if the resolution passes.

“Therefore, I would like to know how many pages of transcript and testimony have and will be accumulated before Thursday’s vote,” Curtis added. “Even if hearing transcripts were released right now, by my rough estimation, it would require more hours to read the transcripts than there are hours left before the official vote. Is it truly your intention to call for a vote with the impossibility to cast an informed vote?”