Up until now, the congressional impeachment inquiry has unfolded largely behind closed doors. There have been some exceptions – some witnesses, for example, have publicly released their opening statements – but by and large, a limited number of officials have been privy to the depositions.
That will soon change. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, “I think you’re going to see all of the transcripts that are going to be released probably within the next five days. I don’t know if they’re all going to be released on the same day. But they’re going to be very telling to the American people.”
And that is precisely what Donald Trump appears to be afraid of.
President Trump suggested Sunday that Republicans should release their own versions of transcripts of interviews in the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.
The president’s anxiety led him to publish a tweet on Saturday arguing that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) “will change the transcripts” from the impeachment proceedings ahead of their release. Trump kept this going a day later, suggesting Schiff shouldn’t be “allowed” to release transcripts, in part because the Californian “will change the words” and “manipulate” the materials.
Trump added that he considers Schiff a “freak” – a word he hasn’t previously tweeted since taking office.
It was at this point that the president recommended that his fellow Republicans distribute “their own transcripts.”
In case this isn’t painfully obvious, if the White House were confident that the transcripts from the impeachment inquiry would exonerate Trump and derail the impeachment proceedings, Trump wouldn’t be panicking like this.
It’s unlikely that anyone in the West Wing has reviewed the deposition transcripts, but dozens of House Republicans have participated in the behind-closed-doors process – claims to the contrary notwithstanding – and they’ve had an opportunity to let the president know how the evidence has unfolded.
And given the weekend’s presidential tweets, Trump has apparently been told to expect some discouraging news.
There’s also a degree of irony hanging overhead: for weeks, the White House and its GOP allies have condemned the private nature of the impeachment inquiry and demanded more transparency. But now that transcripts are poised to be released, Trump appears to be scrambling to undermine public confidence in the materials – which Republicans claimed to be eager for us to see.
During the assorted depositions, some House Democrats told reporters that Republicans were actually lucky that the discussions were unfolding in private. In light of Trump’s stress-tweeting, the president is starting to realize those Dems were right.
Postscript: In case anyone is tempted to take Trump’s concerns about “manipulated” transcripts seriously, George Conway explained that the conspiracy theory the president is raising isn’t really possible.