“Here I am, 21 years later, and people still come up to me all the time and say, ‘Well, knowing what you know now, would you do it again?’” Rogan told me in an interview. “[I knew] this [was] going to cost me everything professionally—and it did. But I knew that going into it, and so I’ve never had any regrets.”
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee now find themselves in the same position as Rogan was more than two decades ago: deciding on and drafting articles of impeachment against a sitting president. The committee kicked off its first public hearing with expert witnesses this morning, and it will spend the next several days compiling a list of allegations that members will argue necessitate Trump’s removal from office. The offenses that end up on that list will help determine the success of the impeachment effort, and they will appear beside Trump’s name in history books for generations to come—phrases like abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
I called Rogan this week to understand what it’s like to take on such a project. We discussed House Republicans’ late-night Chinese-food runs in 1998, the demands of being on Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde’s “Fact Team,” and how it felt to participate in a process that changed the course of American politics. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Elaine Godfrey: In December 1998, you and your Republican colleagues were at roughly the same point in your impeachment inquiry as the Democrats are now. What was it like, being so involved in that process?
James Rogan: We were in a late-night session of the Judiciary Committee [on December 1, 1998], as I recall, [when Chief Investigative Counsel] Dave Schippers handed me a plain manila envelope and said, “Look at this when you get a chance, but don’t show it to anybody.” And I threw it in my briefcase, and didn’t think much of it, because there was all this paperwork going back and forth between members of Congress. I remember getting home late that night, and I was going through all the stuff in my briefcase, and I pulled out this envelope and opened the top, and my eyes popped out of my head. It was a several-page document captioned: “Draft Articles of Impeachment Against the President of the United States.”
There I was, sitting at my kitchen table going over it, line by line, making suggestions, amendments, comments, changes. I faxed it back to Dave Schippers and, ironically, that document with all of my handwritten notes was on display at the Smithsonian from 2000 to 2018.
Godfrey: Did you meet as a whole committee about the articles?
Rogan: I had innumerable meetings with Chairman Hyde during that period, sometimes by myself. I had been a former prosecutor and a former judge, and so he called me a lot. I would go in and meet with him with other members of the committee. And those tended to be the people that he assigned a leadership role to bring the articles forward in the House and to handle the debate in the House. He called it the “Fact Team”: Bill McCollum from Florida, Asa Hutchinson [from Arkansas], Ed Bryant from Tennessee. By the time we got to the Senate [trial], the lead guys were [me, Hutchinson, Bryant] and then Lindsey.