By Jack Phillips
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) has revealed that House Democrats are still withholding transcripts of depositions that were carried out several months ago in Congress’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility during their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“According to House rules, any committee hearing, the transcript is supposed to be available to other House members. But they have not done so, and no one has asserted that these are classified briefings,” he told Fox News on Friday. “They were just simply secret hearings because it behooved the speaker to have secret hearings. That doesn’t pass muster. That’s not a constitutional part of the process.”
Burgess, who sits on the House Rules Committee, told Fox that Democrats in the House “made it secret” and posted “armed guards outside the doors” of the facility during the depositions.
What’s more, Burgess stated that Democrats “still haven’t made all of the transcripts available to members of Congress.”
In the interview, he didn’t elaborate on what transcripts are still being held, but Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson’s interview has not yet been released. It’s not clear if it ever will be.
That was highlighted earlier this month by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who suggested that the transcript is being withheld because it might reveal contacts between House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) office and the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the entire inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Responding to a question on Twitter about the transcript in early December, Ratcliffe said: “It’s because I asked IG Atkinson about his ‘investigation’ into the contacts between Schiff’s staff and the person who later became the whistleblower. The transcript is classified ‘secret’ so Schiff can prevent you from seeing the answers to my questions.”
Unlike the other impeachment witnesses, his transcript has not been released by the Intelligence Committee. Before his deposition on Sept. 30, Atkinson’s office said (pdf) the whistleblower’s complaint “appeared credible.”
Republicans and Trump have accused Schiff’s office of allegedly having contact with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed, which the longtime California Democrat has denied. Schiff later confirmed the claim that his office was told about the complaint before it was filed, prompting allegations of collusion from Republicans.
Schiff has said that he didn’t want the whistleblower to be called in for testimony because he’s “concerned about a bad-faith effort to out a whistleblower who has a statutory right to remain anonymous.”
“The whistleblower has a right to anonymity. There are public reports that the life of the whistleblower has been threatened. We do not want this committee used, or this testimony used, to try to exact political retribution against the whistleblower,” he said days later.
During public hearings in the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees, Republicans tried to get the whistleblower to testify, but their motions were voted down by the Democratic majority.