Former Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said that he agrees 100% with Democrats that the impeachment hearings should be held behind closed doors.
Gowdy, who served from 2011 to 2019 as a powerful South Carolina congressman, touted the role of privacy and due process in House investigations, even if Republicans don’t support the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump, Newsweek reports.
Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan played Gowdy an April 2018 clip in which he called public hearings a “circus, freak show” filled with media leaks. Gowdy said he stands by his support of holding private hearings for testimony.
Gowdy was recently reported to have been considered as the newest member of Trump’s impeachment defense team.
Gowdy’s stance is in direct conflict with several current GOP House members who burst into a closed-door hearing last Wednesday and held press conferences accusing House Democrats of trying to impeach Trump while “hiding in the Capitol basement.”
“Do you still believe [private hearings are more constructive?]” Brennan asked Gowdy Sunday morning.
“One hundred percent,” he replied. “I have always…you can’t pick and choose which aspects of due process you’re going to use. It’s not just the privacy, I mean the reason we respect executive branch investigations isn’t because they’re behind closed doors, it’s because there are no leaks.”
By comparison, Gowdy said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff “has had more press conferences this weekend” than John Durham, Michael Horowitz or Robert Mueller “have had in their lives.”
Gowdy criticized the more than 30 Republicans including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks for storming into the private hearings and making electronic recordings of the proceedings public. But Gowdy also criticized the Democrat-led investigation over “selective leaks” of people’s depositions and testimony.
“I think if you’re going to have private investigations with unlimited time for questioning and cross examining witnesses that’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m a rule follower, I threw a Republican out of a hearing because he was not a member of the committee.”
“I do understand the Republican frustration with the current investigation. My bias has always been towards investigations that wait until the end before they share their conclusions,” Gowdy added.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gowdy was selected as one of the attorneys on the President’s impeachment defense team. But lobbying rules and other missteps caused the arrangement to fall completely apart, although Gowdy himself disavowed knowledge of joining up with Trump’s defense team.
Gowdy announced he would not seek re-election in January 2018, telling reporters at the time, “There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”
Gowdy led the 2012 congressional investigation into the Benghazi, Libya, attacks which left four Americans dead including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The probe uncovered former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server which ultimately evolved into an FBI investigation. Gowdy grilled Clinton in a lengthy October 2015 testimony.
The South Carolina Republican additionally served on the Education and Workforce Committee and Judiciary Committee.