In recent days, a House Democrat called President Trump a “pathetic person.”
Another Democrat, at nearly the same time, charged that the president “turned the government of the United States into a moneymaking operation” and accused Trump of violating and undermining “the laws of the United States.”
Yet another Democrat charged a Republican with “aiding and abetting [the president] in their cover up.” A fourth stated “the president of the United States encouraged his associates to hide the truth, illegally suggested that he would pardon witnesses, and threatened them with retribution if they didn’t protect him.”
And Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has claimed the president is “putting himself and his allies above the law” and “took it upon himself to intimidate a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today.”
But those kinds of accusations and criticisms are not allowed by the rules of the House, contends Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member on the committee.
In a letter Friday to Nadler and congressional leaders, Collins wrote, “Outside of impeachment proceedings – which is clearly the case here – it is out of order for a member of Congress, in debate, to engage in personalities with the president or express an opinion, even a third-party opinion, accusing the president of a crime.
“The Rules are clear on this point,” he said.
He cited Nadler’s scheduled hearing on Monday, which the chairman has titled “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes.”
“I am compelled to remind you – and request you remind the majority members of the committee – the rules of the House prohibit members from ‘engag[ing] in personalities’ with members of Congress, senators, or the president,” he wrote.
“This appears to be part of a strategy to turn the committee’s oversight hearings into a mock-impeachment inquiry rather than a legitimate exercise in congressional oversight. Conducting such hearings inevitably sets this committee on a collision course with the longstanding rules of the House.”
Jefferson’s standard, from which Collins quoted, states, “Personal abuse, innuendo, or ridicule of the president is not permitted.”
“Under this standard, the following remarks regarding personal conduct, demeanor, or attributes have been held out of order as unparliamentary references: (1) discussing personal conduct even as a point of reference or comparison; (2) ‘cowardly,’ ‘cowardice,’ or lacking personal courage; (3) ‘a little bugger’; (4) ‘disgusting’ and ‘despicable,’ ‘disgraceful,’ “disgusting and indecent rhetoric,” Collins quoted.
“The rules of the House dictate minimum standards of decency and decorum, setting forth how members must conduct themselves during debate,” Collins explained. “However, majority members of the committee have demonstrated they either do not understand the rules or simply are under the mistaken belief the rules do not apply to them,” Collins wrote.
Jefferson’s standard also dictates: “It is not in order to call the president a ‘liar’ or accuse such person of ‘lying.’ Indeed, any suggestion of mendacity is out of order, such as: (1) suggesting that such person misrepresented the truth, attempted to obstruct justice, and encouraged others to perjure themselves; (2) dishonesty, failing to be honest, making a ‘dishonest argument’, or intent to be intellectually dishonest, or stating that many were convinced such person had ‘not been honest,'” and more.
And, Collins quoted, “Accusations that the president has committed a crime, or even that the president has done something illegal, are unparliamentary.”
Collins said, “The fact you are attempting to make the case for starting an impeachment inquiry has no bearing on the applicability of the rules. Outside of such an inquiry, members are prohibited from accusing the president of a crime or alluding to potential impeachable offenses.”
Even the title of the hearing, Collins said, if read during debate, “would tread alarmingly close to the prohibition against engaging in personalities against the president due to its mere suggestion the president committed ‘obstruction [of justice] and other crimes.'”
Collins said members who “assault” the rules should be reprimanded.
“It is unbecoming for members of the committee on the Judiciary … to make personal attacks against the president’s character,” he said.