Says House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump "doesn’t feature the opposition party, it doesn’t feature cross-examination."

Rush Limbaugh on Friday, October 25th, 2019 in a statement on his radio show

Limbaugh wrongly claims Republicans are being shut out of impeachment hearings

The Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington on Oct. 29, 2019. (AP/Applewhite)

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh wrongly claimed that House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump are keeping Republicans out of their hearings.

More than 40 Republican lawmakers disrupted witness testimony on Oct. 23 by storming a secure room and chanting, "Let us in!" Many news outlets and top Democrats quickly pointed out that roughly a dozen of the protesting Republicans already had access to the depositions they were demanding to hear.

Still, Limbaugh and others have charged that Republicans have been shut out of the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions on Ukraine. 

"The thing that, of course, is top-drawer today and has been all week is what little Adam pencil-neck Schiff is doing behind closed doors in a so-called impeachment inquiry that doesn’t feature the opposition party, it doesn’t feature cross-examination, no transcripts are released, everything’s being done in private, only selected leaks, you know the drill," Limbaugh said Oct. 25 on his radio show.

Limbaugh’s comments were made before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision Oct. 28 to bring the probe to a more open phase, starting with an Oct. 31 vote on a resolution to affirm the ongoing investigation and start public hearings.

Limbaugh, who did not respond to requests for comment, has a point that the impeachment hearings have so far taken place behind closed doors, without transcripts being formally released. (News outlets have obtained transcripts of prepared witness remarks in some cases.) 

But he is wrong that the hearings have excluded House Republicans, 47 of whom sit on the three committees that have been leading the investigation. 

Participation is based on committee, not party

The Constitution says little about procedures for impeachment: The House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" and the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments."

In three previous impeachments, the full House authorized inquiries and the House Judiciary Committee took the lead in conducting investigations, holding hearings and voting on whether to approve articles of impeachment.

This time around, Pelosi opened the inquiry without a formal vote, a move Republicans criticized. She instructed three House committees — Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs — to carry out an investigation that the House Judiciary Committee will use to draft any articles of impeachment. 

There are nine Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, 17 are on the House Oversight Committee, and 21 are on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. By contrast, those three committees feature 13, 23 and 26 Democrats, respectively, with four Democrats sitting on two of them at the same time.

All 47 of those Republicans have been able to participate and ask questions in the interviews and depositions held to this point, said Ashley Etienne, Pelosi’s communications director, in an email. Experts told us the same thing.

Other House members, such as Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who organized the Oct. 23 protest, have been kept out of the hearings not because they are Republicans, but because they are not on the relevant committees. And some, such as Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida, have chosen not to attend despite being able to.

There is no constitutional provision that says a president or his allies must be allowed to cross-examine witnesses during a House impeachment inquiry. 

"Nothing in either the Constitution or House rules requires public hearings and/or cross-examination at this stage," said Ilya Somin, professor of law at George Mason University.

When Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the inquiry was denying Trump "due process accorded every American," we rated his statement False. If such rights apply at all, they would be granted during the Senate’s trial phase.

"The House impeachment inquiry is equivalent to a grand jury investigation in a criminal case," said Suzanna Sherry, professor of law at Vanderbilt University. "And there is no opportunity for cross-examination when evidence is presented to the grand jury."

Republicans also have the ability to ask questions of witnesses at hearings, Sherry said, which is "more opportunity for cross-examination than is given to a target of a grand jury investigation."

"By any ordinary definition, that would amount to ‘cross-examination,’" said Frank O. Bowman III, professor of law at the University of Missouri and the author of a book on impeachment. 

Our ruling

Limbaugh said House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry "doesn’t feature the opposition party, it doesn’t feature cross-examination."

Republicans on the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees — 47 in total — have been able to participate in hearings organized as part of the impeachment inquiry. 

We rate Limbaugh’s statement False.