Of all the things that went through Congressman Russ Fulcher’s mind when he took office in January, he didn’t imagine himself storming into a committee meeting as part of a highly publicized protest.
Well … as defensive linemen say to rookie running backs after the first hard hit, “Welcome to the NFL.” And as political veterans might tell Fulcher, “Welcome to politics, congressional style.” There’s no concussion protocol that goes with Fulcher’s line of work, but politics is a contact sport.
It’s not in Fulcher’s congenial nature to cause such commotion. He came to Congress in January wanting to reach out to everyone within howdyin’ range — Republican or Democrat. Fulcher was introduced to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by fellow Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, and pleasantries were exchanged.
Of course, that was months before President Trump’s controversial call to the Ukrainian president, which produced the Democratic Party’s new rallying cry for impeachment.
“I am not a rookie anymore,” Fulcher proclaims.
And Fulcher was not with a group of rookies when Republicans decided to protest Intelligence Chairman’s Adam Schiff’s decision for a closed-door session with a Defense Department official. In general, Republicans had enough of Schiff and the tactics the Democrats were using in their impeachment inquiry.
“I am a tactful guy, and this sort of thing is not in my nature,” Fulcher says. “But if you take away the responsibility I have for the people who put me here, then I have a problem with that. I can be aggressive.”
He has no issue with the committee’s investigation. “If there’s something wrong, and there’s an impeachable offense, then we need to look at it,” Fulcher says. “I’m not against the inquiry, I’m against the secrecy and the process by which they are conducting it.”
Fulcher says a committee chairman has no right to deny minority witnesses, withholding transcripts and other information, or barring members of Congress from sitting in.
“Why wasn’t the media allowed to come in? It was unclassified, and they should have been allowed to attend,” Fulcher says.
At the moment, he says, the rules are being dictated by a committee chair who has spent two years talking about wanting to impeach President Trump.
“Right now, there’s one person who is blocking information, and that’s not right,” Fulcher says. “If he is so arrogant to manipulate the system in this fashion, then I have an obligation to take a stand.”
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Democrat-controlled House will vote to impeach Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will vote to acquit. It’s also reasonable to assume that Fulcher and most, if not all, House Republicans will vote against impeachment. Fulcher sees nothing to warrant impeachment, and defends the president asking the Ukrainian leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
“If we (in Congress) have evidence of wrongdoing, then we have an obligation to at least look into it because part of our job is oversight,” the congressman said. “The same argument can be made for the president. If he knew of, or had reason to suspect illegal activity of an official, then he was within his right to pursue it.”
Of course, there’s plenty of controversy about a president encouraging a foreign government’s interference in a U.S. presidential election. But as Fulcher and other Republicans see it, there’s nothing that Trump has done that warrants impeachment.
“We’re talking about removing or nullifying the vote of the electorate of the nation, and I can’t think of a bigger deal than telling the entire nation that we don’t accept the results. And we’re within one year of another election,” said Fulcher.
“I’m supposed to represent the state of Idaho on this issue, and I will do it. I might make some people happy with my vote, or I might make some people mad, but I’m going to be fully informed when I vote.”
One thing is for sure, Fulcher should have plenty of time to sift through briefings, transcripts and other information that come from the impeachment investigation. At this point, nothing much else is going on in Congress these days.
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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.