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Trump Impeachment Is 'Not A Fair Process,' GOP Rep. Mike Johnson Says

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

As House Democrats move forward with impeachment proceedings, hearings continue Monday with a presentation of the House Intelligence Committee’s 300-page report.

The report concluded that Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.” President Trump faces a Friday deadline to decide whether or not to send a White House lawyer to the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings.

Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, says he does not think this report presents enough evidence to support impeachment.

“Our concern is that we still … don’t have access to all the underlying evidence that supposedly supports this claim or these allegations that impeachment is necessary,” he says.

Interview Highlights

On whether he thinks the House Intelligence Committee report presents enough evidence

“I don’t because I think that report was engineered by chairman Schiff — I think it was cherry-picked. I think the reason that they had many, or all these witnesses come before them in the basement first, in the closed hearings, was because that was a dress rehearsal. He has selected the portions and the excerpts and the testimony that he wants to present and you have to remember that only three of nine Republican witnesses have ever been allowed into this process. It was summarized in the hearing on Wednesday by Professor [Jonathan] Turley, that this is the fastest moving impeachment on the thinnest record in the history of this country and that ought to concern every American.”


On Democratic claims that they’re moving at the pace they are to prevent further election interference

“Listen, the reason the founders set this up in our constitutional republic, the reason the president has to run for reelection for a second term, is that the voters of this country get to make those decisions. They get to review the record and the actions and the activities of every administration on a four-year term, and we have one of those coming up now, in what, about 11 months now. We ought to let the people make those determinations, and I think that’s what my friend [Democratic Rep.] Eric Swalwell and my Democrat colleagues are concerned about. They don’t want this to be decided at the ballot box. They want to do it themselves, but the problem is they don’t have a record to support it. You know our chairman, Jerry Nadler, the Democrat chairman of our committee, said himself 20 years ago, that a single party impeachment proceeding would be terribly destructive to our country. He seems to have made a 180-degree turn on that view, but we still share it.”

On actual threats of election interference

“Well, look, everyone on both sides of the aisle is working to prevent election interference. The president is himself. We know Russia is the main offender there and we’re addressing that. All of us are working together to make sure that happens. We have to have integrity in our system. I just don’t think that what they’ve presented is any evidence of election tampering that has been contributed to in any way or affirmed in any way by the administration. That ultimately is the question.”

On whether lack of impeachment or censure could lead to normalizing foreign interference

“Well, first of all, I’m not sure that that … I don’t believe that’s what has happened here, so the pretext of the question I would dispute. But I would say this: Look, the precedent that I’m concerned about, that we’re concerned about, that professor Turley spoke so eloquently about, is the Pandora’s box that is being opened here by proceeding to impeachment with such a thin record. That it looks to be overtly political and not legal. This should be a constitutional matter and not one about our political disagreements. This is a real concern, and he asked an important rhetorical question in that hearing of our Democrat colleagues. He said, ‘You need to think about this a few years down the road. What will happen when a Democrat is in the oval office, and the other party wants to go after your president for something that is unproven, based on hearsay allegations and no direct evidence?’ This is a real problem for the future of the republic, and I don’t think we’re overstating that.”

On the timeline of impeachment hearings

“That’s kind of one of the outrageous things about this. They seem to be making it up as they go on the other side. They’ve put this on a rocket docket as was said in the hearing. For some reason, they feel like they’ve got to rush it, and that’s the real problem. When you rush things you make really important procedural mistakes and you raise concern of the American people. At the end of the day, that really is our ultimate worry, here, is that people are losing faith in our institutions. In our system of justice, in the institution of Congress itself. The reason impeachment is so exceedingly rare in our history, the reason the founders set it up to use for only the most extreme circumstances is because they had to know, the American people have to know at the end, whatever the outcome, that they can trust the process, that it was fair, impartial and transparent. We don’t have any of that here, and that’s the real problem.”

On Democratic arguments that impeachment is the only way to restore faith in government

“Well, right, but if they genuinely believe that they would slow this thing down, they would have more deliberate hearings, they would allow balance in the witness list. They would allow cross-examination and the president’s counsel to be involved at every stage. They haven’t done that. All of the witnesses that were presented to us this week had to admit openly that they have no personal knowledge of a single material fact in the Schiff report. Why were they there? They were there to pontificate about the history of impeachment, it’s appropriate use here. That hearing was useless. Seventeen out of 24 of my Democrat colleagues on the other side of the aisle in the House Judiciary committee have already voted previously to support moving for impeachment. They didn’t come into that hearing with an open mind and all of us have to recognize that’s the reality of this.”

On whether the White House should be involved in this part of the process

“Look, if they had any faith at all, any hope that it could be a fair hearing, they should be involved. But if it looks like they’re being railroaded, no lawyer in the world would advise them to go and participate in that. I’m an attorney, I would tell my client not to because it can’t be trusted. If they’ll have a fair and open process that’s what you would hope. When Ken Starr presented his report in 1998, he came and sat before the House Judiciary Committee, took questions from both sides. The minority party had full access to all the records. He presented 36 boxes of evidence to the Judiciary Committee in 1998. Do you know how many chairman Schiff has given to us? Zero. This is not a fair process and everyone can see that.”

Chris Bentley produced and edited this story for broadcast with Tinku RaySamantha Raphelson and Allison Hagan adapted it for the web. 

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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