Congress

Lots of no-shows for impeachment inquiry depositions

Overall Democrats participated more than Republicans, who had complained about access

Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., make their way to votes in the Capitol on Friday. Jordan referred to the lack of attendance at the impeachment depositions in appealing for Gaetz to be able to attend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated Nov. 21, 2:28 p.m. | Only a fifth of the 104 members on the three House panels that conducted the impeachment inquiry depositions attended and participated in a majority of the proceedings, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of the available deposition transcripts.

The Intelligence Committee has released transcripts for 15 of the 17 depositions it has conducted with two other panels: Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs. 

The transcripts note which members were present when the depositions began, although they don’t account for members who might have joined the proceedings after they were underway. To get the best picture of attendance and participation, CQ Roll Call counted members listed as present, as well as those cited in the transcripts as asking questions of the witnesses.

While the attendance figures CQ Roll Call came up with aren’t necessarily a full picture of who came and went, it provides a snapshot that shows participation among members in the staff-led depositions was minimal.

Only 20 of the 104 members on the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees attended at least half of the proceedings.

Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the  California Democrat, Oversight ranking Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio and Oversight GOP member Mark Meadows of North Carolina were the only members to attend all 15 of the available depositions.

Democrats on the Intelligence Committee were among the most frequent attendees, with 10 attending at least half. By comparison, only two Republicans on the panel did so, as ranking member Devin Nunes of California attended eight and Elise Stefanik of New York attended nine.

Foreign Affairs ranking Republican Michael McCaul of Texas attended seven, but the panel’s Democratic chairman, Eliot L. Engel of New York, only attended three. Two Foreign Affairs Republicans, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Lee Zeldin of New York, attended 13 and 11 depositions, respectively.

Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, the Maryland Democrat, was too ill to attend the depositions before his death on Oct. 17. New York Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney, now acting chairwoman, attended seven.

Eighteen members did not participate in any of the depositions. The only Intelligence Committee member on that list was Arkansas Republican Rick Crawford. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Nov. 8 temporarily removed him from the panel to free up a seat for Jordan in the public impeachment hearings that began last week.

In total, the transcripts show 14 Republicans and four Democrats did not participate.

The fact that more Republicans did not participate than Democrats is noteworthy because the GOP complained that all members weren’t allowed to attend the depositions, with some even storming the secure area where the proceedings were held in protest.

In addition to Crawford, the Republicans nonparticipants were: Oversight Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, James Comer of Kentucky and Mark Green of Tennessee; and Foreign Affairs Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Ron Wright of Texas and Greg Pence of Indiana.

Oversight GOP Reps. Jody Hice of Georgia and Greg Steube of Florida are not listed on any of the transcripts. Steube's office cited one deposition he attended. Hice's office cited four he attended and said he could not make some of the others because his father died and he was in Georgia to mourn with his family.

The four Democrats who did not participate were Oversight Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Foreign Affairs members Albio Sires of New Jersey, Juan Vargas of California and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas.

Jordan made note of the low attendance at some of the early depositions during the committees’ interview with Fiona Hill as Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz tried to sit in and listen to the testimony, arguing that as a Judiciary Committee member who will have to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he should be able to participate.

“Mr. Gaetz, please absent yourself from the committee. It’s the ruling of the chair you’re not permitted to be here,” Schiff told Gaetz.

Jordan then interjected: “Mr. Chairman, I think in the 20 hours of testimony we’ve heard in the two previous interviews, there have been a grand total of 12 members of Congress present. I don’t think it’s going to hurt to have a 13th member actually hear something that, in my judgment, all 435 members of Congress should be entitled to hear.”

The exchange occurred during opening statements and Schiff’s staff had to get a ruling from the House parliamentarian, who determined House deposition regulations have always been construed to only allow members of committees conducting the deposition to participate. Gaetz agreed to leave the room.

Hill’s deposition was the third the committees conducted and Jordan was correct in that the average attendance at the first two was 12 members. However, those depositions were held Oct. 3 and 11 when the House was in recess.

Attendance picked up when the House returned to session on Oct. 15 with an average of 39 members showing up at nine depositions that occurred between then and Oct. 31, but it significantly declined with the recess during the first week of November.

Only two of the proceedings drew more than half of the members eligible to participate — the Oct. 22 deposition of William Taylor, the U.S. envoy to Ukraine who testified at the first public hearing Wednesday, and the Oct. 29 deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council lead on Ukraine. On both days 69 members attended.

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