Fox News Judge Says House Impeachment Inquiry 'Consistent With the Rules' That 'Republican Majority' Signed Into Law

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Thursday that Republican complaints about the "secrecy" of closed-door impeachment hearings don't hold water because the process is "consistent with the rules" that a "Republican majority" signed into law.

Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly argued that the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry has been conducted improperly because the testimony of witnesses has been carried out in close-door hearings. On Wednesday morning, a group of GOP representatives, some of whom did not serve on the investigating committees, stormed one of those secure depositions, chanting "let us in." This delayed the hearing, but it eventually went forward in the afternoon with only the Democrats and Republicans serving on the relevant committees permitted to attend.

"As frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors...they are consistent with the rules," Napolitano, who previously served as a New Jersey Superior Court judge, explained during a segment of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends.

"When were the rules written last?" the legal expert asked. "In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner [the Republican speaker of the House]. And who enacted them? A Republican majority," he asserted.

Matt Gaetz
Flanked by about two dozen House Republicans, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) speaks during an October 23 press conference, during which he called for transparency in the impeachment inquiry. Alex Wong/Getty

"The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret," Napolitano said. He pointed out that he personally wishes he could view the testimony and that it was public, but he added that the impeachment investigation was thus far consistent with the ones conducted against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon inevitably resigned to avoid impeachment, while Clinton was formally impeached by the House but not removed by the Senate.

"Eventually, there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them," Napolitano explained. "This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public."

Despite being a prominent contributor to Fox News, which is viewed by many as favorable to President Donald Trump and the Republicans, Napolitano has regularly criticized the president and his administration. He called Trump's actions toward Ukraine, which are at the center of the fast-moving impeachment inquiry, "arguably impeachable" at the end of September. The former judge has previously slammed the president for violating the Constitution and warned that Trump's "allusions to violence are palpably dangerous."

In an op-ed published by Fox News on Thursday, Napolitano said Trump had shown disregard for his oath of office and had disparaged the Constitution by recently calling a part of the founding document "phony." Trump used the word to describe the Constitution's emoluments clause after he backtracked from holding a G7 summit at his Doral, Florida, resort following significant backlash. Legal experts pointed out that the move would violate the constitutional clause, which forbids the president from taking gifts or payments from foreigners or foreign governments.

"Whatever Trump meant by phony, it constituted at least a disparagement of the Constitution he has sworn to uphold and at worst a threat to ignore clauses he can disparage," Napolitano wrote.

"This is most unusual and potentially dangerous, and it raises the question: Can the president lawfully enforce only the clauses of the Constitution with which he agrees and ignore those with which he disagrees? In a word: No," he concluded.