If there were any lingering doubts about the lack of seriousness or the intellectual dishonesty of the GOP Representatives who stormed the room in which Impeachment witnesses were being questioned, one fact should put those doubts to rest: the 22 members of the House conducting the interviews is made up of 13 Democrats and 9 Republicans.
As Politico put it: “More than 45 House Republicans — nearly a quarter of the House G.O.P. conference — already have full access to the depositions through their membership on one of the three panels leading the impeachment inquiry.”
Worse still, 13 of the 41 Republican lawmakers who engaged in this bit of theater–who were protesting a supposed lack of transparency in the inquiry–actually sit on committees with the authority to question witnesses and review documents.”
As Huffington Post, among many others, reported, interviews were being held in the Intelligence Committee’s “secure area.” Because the Republicans who engaged in the stunt brought phones and other forbidden electronics into the (awkwardly named) Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), Democrats said the room would now have to be “sanitized.”
“They not only brought in their unauthorized bodies, they may have brought in the Russians and the Chinese,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee.
The interviews are being conducted in accordance with House rules, and in a manner consistent with previous inquiries; furthermore, there are prudential reasons to do initial interviews separately and in confidence: for one thing, it denies witnesses the opportunity to co-ordinate their stories.
Not only do the Republicans have access to the information being provided in these interviews, the Democrats have made it very clear that once the initial round of questioning is over, the proceedings will all be made public.
The hostile takeover of the committee room, which was endorsed by GOP leadership ― the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), even participated in the charade ― is the latest in a string of attempts to distract from the actual Ukraine scandal. Republicans are trying to get voters to dig into their familiar partisan foxholes and disregard any new information.
But storming through the “Restricted Area” doors of the SCIF, bringing their phones, occupying the committee room for hours — even ordering pizza ― are all charades that unbiased voters should see through.
The problem with that last paragraph is the phrase “unbiased voters.” In our polarized political environment, there aren’t many of those, and it is obvious that the GOP’s theatrics are an effort to distract their own voters from very damaging evidence, much of which has already come out. Unfortunately, rebuttals of that evidence are increasingly hard to come by, so in the absence of any substantive defense, they are screaming about the process–despite the fact that it is a process they considered perfectly appropriate when they used it.
House Republicans have held—and even supported—the use of closed door hearings for past congressional investigations, including the select committee that they spearheaded to investigate the 2011 consulate attack in Benghazi. That larger inconsistency and the timing on Wednesday’s gambit struck some Democrats as telling about the direction that the impeachment proceeding is heading.
“When you don’t have the law or the facts, you attack and disrupt the process,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “And you may wonder why is it happening now? Because Bill Taylor gave a devastating opening statement yesterday. They’re freaked out. They’re trying to stop this investigation.”
What they clearly aren’t doing is honestly evaluating the evidence that is emerging. And they sure aren’t subordinating self-interest and partisanship to justice or the interests of their country.
These clowns aren’t amusing.