Fox News complains about “unfairness” in standard part of impeachment process

Both news and opinion people are running with the flawed talking point

Fox News personalities have been railing against the new rules for the official House impeachment inquiry giving more power to the Democratic majority over the proceedings than to the Republican minority, calling them “completely unfair” or even “bizarro world.”

Among the people positioning themselves as champions of fairness against this perceived violation of due process are reliable Trump defenders Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Gregg Jarrett, and Geraldo Rivera — along with “news”-side figures like Chris Wallace and Harris Faulkner.

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After the Democrats released an eight-page resolution on Tuesday that outlined the next phase of the impeachment inquiry, Republicans objected that under the impeachment inquiry rules, subpoenas from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the ranking GOP member of the Intelligence Committee, would also have to be approved by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) or else go to a full committee vote. And the same conditions also hold in the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA).

But as Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, “that’s standard procedure in any committee. … It was the case when Democrats were the minority.”

Indeed, this rule is not radically different from previous impeachment inquiries in which the minority’s subpoena power also faced limits that would subject any request to the ultimate decision of the majority.

During the Nixon and Clinton impeachment inquiries, the House Judiciary Committee chairman and ranking member had a subpoena power “acting jointly,” or one of them could even issue a subpoena alone. But an additional step existed, which could thwart the ranking member in any party-line conflict. If one of them sought to issue a subpoena and the other objected, the matter would then be referred to the full committee for a vote. Thus, a power imbalance over subpoenas still existed — though with a slightly different set of procedures — that gave the majority party the final say over the minority.

Paul Rosenzweig, former senior counsel to Ken Starr in the Whitewater investigation and a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in USA Today: “In both inquiries, the majority controlled the process of subpoena issuance; in both inquiries the normal rules of rapid-fire five-minute questioning by members were relaxed to allow for lengthier examination; and in both inquiries there are mechanisms by which the president could offer rebuttal evidence.”

But over at another Murdoch property, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, the false claim is told again: “The Nixon and Clinton resolutions gave the majority and minority equal power to subpoena witnesses … Article I doesn’t define rules for impeachment, but on a matter as grave as ousting a President the public deserves to know that the process is fair and transparent. Any process run by the hyper-partisan Mr. Schiff and under the terms of Thursday’s House resolution is likely to be neither.”

In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) faced weeks of political pressure from Republicans and their right-wing media allies to hold a vote on formal procedural rules for an impeachment inquiry, even though such a vote is not constitutionally required. But once the vote was actually held on Thursday, a new right-wing talking point claimed that the Democrats had “rammed” the new set of rules through.