The Halloween vote on a rules package for impeachment proceedings was an appropriate backdrop for the "witch hunt" Democrats are pursuing against President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., said Friday.
Her speaking appearance at the Pearls of Production Women in Agriculture conference at Drury Plaza Hotel in Columbia took place amid news her office sponsored a forum in Washington, D.C. by a group known as Changed.
The group is opposed to House Resolution 5, known as the Equality Act and House Resolution 3570 or the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. The forum was held next to Rep. Ted Lieu's office, D-Calif., the sponsor of the act, which seeks to classify so-called conversion therapy a fraudulent practice.
The group's members used to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, but now identify as heterosexual or cisgender. Hartzler distanced herself from a decision made by office staffers to sponsor the group.
"I personally wasn't aware of that. My office had made those arrangements," Hartzler said.
The members of Changed were at the Cannon House Office Building to share their stories and to talk about their life, she said.
Hartzler is chair of the values action team, which is dedicated to advancing policy that promotes traditional values by building and strengthening coalitions with like-minded citizen groups and amplifying their voices to achieve common goals, according to a 2017 news release.
"We work a lot on faith, family and freedom issues," Hartzler said, adding she was unavailable at the time of the forum. "I would have supported this effort. It wasn't that big of a deal and we just were helping to facilitate some people to come share their story."
Columbia recently became the first city in Missouri to pass an ordinance officially banning the practice of conversion therapy.
She spoke about the impeachment proceedings following her address.
"[Impeachment] has been the goal of several leaders in the House since the election. First it was the Mueller report, and that didn't work and now they've invented this new idea," she said.
The impeachment inquiry has focused on the alleged quid pro quo of the Trump administration withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden. The rules package voted on by the House of Representatives on Thursday passed 232-196, with all Republicans voting against. Two Democrats who are facing re-election in Republican-leaning districts broke ranks and voted with the Republicans.
"I didn't think there was enough evidence to warrant an impeachment process to begin with, but that the process is really a sham," Hartzler said.
Republicans and the president have been denied the ability to see transcripts of depositions given by current and former administration officials, she said. One of Hartzler's colleagues in the House is Florida Republican Ted Yoho, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is one of the committees conducting the inquiry and who would have access to deposition transcripts. He has not attended committee depositions, according to reporting from CNN, calling them a sideshow and not an official inquiry.
Republicans argue because the inquiry didn't open with a formal vote it is not happening legally. The inquiry was affirmed as legal Oct. 25 by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell. The ruling also required the U.S. Justice Department hand over grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The Justice Department appealed that ruling.
"The President hasn't been provided due process of having the ability to be there or his counsel to be there to cross-examine witnesses, to subpoena and call new witnesses and the vote yesterday, just validates this closed-door secret process," Hartzler said.
She was among a group of 26 Republican representatives that halted proceedings Oct. 23 when they entered the closed-door deposition of a U.S. Defense Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, Laura Cooper. The deposition was delayed five hours as a sweep was required of the secure conference room since the representatives were reported to have brought in electronic devices against national security rules.
Hartzler assailed the depositions on Twitter, writing "If this is an impeachment inquiry, then ALL Members of Congress, no matter what your party or committee assignment, need to be included."
Hartzler serves on the House Agriculture and Armed Services committees, which are not involved with the inquiry.
The rules package approved Thursday is similar to impeachment proceedings used in the President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton, Democrats said. There is no constitutional requirement or House rule that a vote precedes an inquiry, they argued, which was backed up in Howell's ruling.
The House intelligence committee now will lead the investigation and release reports and transcripts of its closed-door interviews to the public. The House Judiciary committee will decide on if it recommends impeachment. Republicans can issue subpoenas for witnesses as long as the committee holding the hearing approves them, which essentially gives the Democrats veto power.
"It didn't undo — first of all the sham process has been going on for the last several weeks," Hartzler said. "The Nixon hearings and the Clinton hearings had those [due process] abilities. We need to be focused on the problems facing this country — infrastructure, reducing health care costs, prescription drug costs and passing the [United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement]."
Both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings had special prosecutors directing the investigation — Archibald Cox and Kenneth Starr, respectively. The House is focusing on the alleged Ukraine quid pro quo and Democrats have acted as investigators. They are doing so in the fashion of grand jury, which is allowed, Howell wrote in her Oct. 25 ruling. Grand juries are private and lawyers are not allowed to be present and they can subpoena witness testimony.
“To the extent the House’s role in the impeachment context is to investigate misconduct by the President and ascertain whether that conduct amounts to an impeachable offense warranting removal from office, the House performs a function somewhat akin to a grand jury,” the judge wrote.