Impeachment Hearing Preview: The Lawyers and the Process

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The public impeachment inquiry hearings beginning today will put a Democratic attorney who built his reputation as a federal mob and securities fraud prosecutor, against a GOP House Oversight investigator who helped steer some of the most notable probes of the Obama administration, the Associated Press reports.

Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Steve Castor, the GOP chief investigative counsel, asked the bulk of the questions of witnesses during weeks of closed-door depositions with current and former administration officials and diplomats.

Goldman spent about a decade as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. A veteran of mob and murder prosecutions, Goldman was also part of the team that prosecuted Las Vegas sports bettor William “Billy” Walters, who was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges in 2017 for his role in a $43 million insider-trading scheme. Goldman stepped away from his gig as an MSNBC pundit and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice to jump into the trenches of Capitol Hill in the midst of the fourth impeachment inquiry of a president in U.S. history.

Castor has served under seven committee chairmen, including four Republicans, since joining the oversight staff in 2005. He was deeply involved in investigations of the Obama Justice Department’s ill-fated gun trafficking initiative Operation Fast and Furious, the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and a probe during the first term of the Obama administration into whether the Internal Revenue Service was applying special scrutiny to certain political groups that were applying for nonprofit organization status.

The planned use of the two staff lawyers fits a goal of allowing for longer, more detailed lines of questioning better suited to such a complicated and weighty subject than the typical five-minute bursts from lawmakers that make for pithy television sound bites, The New York Times reports.

Schiff and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) plan to take advantage of extended blocks of questioning at the outset. After the top lawmakers and witnesses deliver opening statements, Schiff will have 45 uninterrupted minutes to ask questions, followed by Nunes. Under the special rules that were adopted late last month for the inquiry by the House, Schiff and Nunes can delegate some or all of that time to their highly trained staff lawyers.

Once the hearing is concluded, the committee plans to write a report and present it to the House Judiciary Committee, where articles of impeachment are traditionally drafted and debated. Democratic leaders had hoped the Judiciary Committee could complete that work this year, but the timing remains unclear. That committee could take several weeks to decide whether to recommend that the full House impeach President Trump. If the House follows through, then the Senate must hold a trial.

Notable previews of the first presidential impeachment hearings in 20 years include The New York Times’ rundown on the key issues and roster of main players; The Washington Post’s “guide to impeachment hearing spin”; Vox’s “ultimate guide” explainer; and Slate’s “guide to all the people” to watch in this week’s televised  hearings.

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