The House Intelligence Committee and its chairman Adam Schiff have not shown legal precedents that justify hiding their subpoenas for a reporter's phone records during the Trump impeachment inquiry, a federal appeals judge said Wednesday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit grilled the committee's lawyer at a hearing on its decision to publish only certain subpoenas on the committee website. Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch is seeking the public release of subpoenas to phone companies that targeted private individuals, including reporter and Just the News founder and CEO John Solomon.
Todd Tatelman, principal deputy general counsel for the House of Representatives, argued that the Constitution's "speech or debate clause" shields the committee from being dragged into court to divulge the scope of its subpoenas.
"What's your authority for what you just said?" Judge Karen Henderson responded. "I have not found any case that upholds the speech or debate clause immunity with regard to the common law right of access" to public records. Tatelman admitted he didn't know of any.
The judge also found it "noteworthy," if not "ironic," that Tatelman justified hiding the subpoenas to protect the privacy of irrelevant individuals whose personal information could be exposed. Judicial Watch's entire case is about the committee claiming an "unlimited" power to invade the privacy of individuals, Henderson said.