Alaska congressman explains why he voted ‘no’ on new rules for Trump impeachment probe

Rep. Don Young in his Washington, D.C. office. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Congressman Don Young, like all Republicans, voted “no” on the rules the U.S. House adopted Thursday to open the doors on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

For one, he says the rules don’t give the Republican minority enough authority in the process. 

“What’s it allow the minority to do? Nothing,” he said. “Anytime I’d have to clear with the chairman for me to subpoena witnesses before he could OK it, that’s wrong.” 

The rules direct six committees to continue their impeachment inquiry. Young isn’t on those committees, but other Republicans are. (If a chairman says no to a Republican subpoena request, the rules provide one more option: Republicans can try to override him with a vote of the committee. That’s pretty hard, since Democrats outnumber Republicans on each panel.)

Young also objects to the list of committees assigned to the job. He says it’s missing an important player.

“They won’t have the Foreign Affairs Committee in it,” he said. “They should’ve, because most of the witnesses, in secret, have been from the State Department, and that’s wrong. So it’s a bad deal, and I voted no, and I’m saying I’m dead-right on it.”

Actually, Foreign Affairs is one of the committees that has been taking depositions behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol, jointly with House Intel and Oversight, and it’s among the committees assigned to continue the probe.

Beyond those specific process complaints, Young says the inquiry is politically driven and he doesn’t see any factual basis for it.

“This has been a political sham from the very beginning. When you think about it, three years, all they’ve ever tried to do is get rid of Trump.”

 At the heart of the inquiry is a July phone conversation between Trump and the president of Ukraine. According to a rough transcript from the White House, Trump asked that Ukraine “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden. Supporters of impeachment say Trump was asking a foreign government to help him win re-election by digging up dirt on a political opponent.

Young says he believes Trump was conducting the nation’s business in that call. He says he doesn’t know why Trump discussed Biden with the president of Ukraine, or even which Biden he was referring to.

“An investigation – he did say that,” Young said of the president. “Into … Biden or into his son?”

It wasn’t a question Young was interested in discussing. Three minutes into the interview, he ended it.

“That’s enough,” he said. “Get out of here.”

In the rough transcript of the call, Trump did not use first names, but referred to “Biden’s son” and “Biden.” Trump has since made it clear he wants Ukraine – and also China to investigate more than one member of that family.

“If it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters Oct. 3.

Critics say Trump, with statements like that, invites foreign powers to interfere in the 2020 election.

The House resolution passed easily, with only two Democrats voting no. It allows for future House proceedings to be public and for the release of transcripts of what’s already taken place.