September 29, 2023 - This is seriously about ONE man's ego not willing to lose his position as speaker. So be it.
“What a day we are having…. As a former director of emergency management, I know a disaster when I see one,” Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said yesterday in the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, overseen by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee chaired by James Comer (R-KY).
Moskowitz wasn’t wrong. After a hearing that lasted more than six hours, highlights of which Aaron Rupar of Public Notice reposted on social media, Neil Cavuto of the Fox News Channel was unimpressed. He said that although Comer had promised to present “a mountain of evidence” against President Biden, “none of the expert witnesses today presented…any proof for impeachment…. The way this was built up, ‘where there’s smoke there would be fire,’... but where’s there’s smoke today, we just got a lot more smoke.”
The Republicans on the committee repeatedly talked about the volume of evidence they have uncovered, but they were never able to link their piles of evidence to the president. Under questioning, their own witnesses said there was not enough evidence to impeach President Biden.
It seemed as if Republicans have become so accustomed to being able to say anything they want to on right-wing media without being challenged they thought a congressional committee would operate the same way. When the Democrats pushed back, they seemed flummoxed.
Comer lost control of the hearing as Democrats on the committee, thoroughly prepared, came out swinging. Representative Shontel Brown (D-OH) noted that “[t]he DOJ and FBI under former President Trump spent 5 long years looking into these Republican conspiracy theories, and debunked them. Repeatedly.” Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said, “The majority sits completely empty handed with no evidence of any presidential wrongdoing, no smoking gun, no gun, no smoke.”
Representative Summer Lee (D-PA) called out the Republicans by name for holding a sham impeachment hearing instead of funding the government and working for their constituents. She noted that 217,583 people living in the districts of the Republicans on the committee would lose their paychecks because of the Republican shutdown.
Most notably, the Democrats called out the places where witnesses or committee members had deleted words in quotations that changed their meanings. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) emphasized that the four Republican witnesses said they had not presented any first-hand witness accounts of crimes committed by President Biden, while the committee was blocking the testimony of witnesses who could testify to actual facts. She also noted that members of Congress could say anything they wanted because they are covered by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause protecting them,
Democrats also called out the many ways in which the Republicans were trying to discredit President Biden with speculation during an impeachment hearing to distract from the very real legal troubles of former president Trump. Representatives Mike Garcia (D-CA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) called out the Republicans for focusing on allegations about Hunter Biden and ignoring the very real issues involving Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who could not get a security clearance until Trump demanded he be given one, worked on Middle East issues in the White House, and then received a $2 billion investment from the Saudis shortly after Trump left office.
Most dramatically, Representative Greg Cesar (D-TX) asked the members of the Oversight Committee to raise their hands if they believe that both Hunter and Trump should be held accountable if they are found guilty on any of their indictments. The Democrats all raised their hands. The Republicans did not.
One senior republican aide told CNN’s Melanie Zanona: “This is an unmitigated disaster.”
It did not get better after the hearing ended. A fact-check by CNN’s Daniel Dale, Marshall Cohen and Annie Grayer tore apart the committee’s “evidence.” Although Comer said in his opening remarks that the committee has uncovered how “the Bidens and their associates…raked in over $20 million between 2014 and 2019,” all but about $7 million went to Hunter Biden’s business associates, who according to the Washington Post had “legitimate business interests,” and there is no evidence that President Biden himself received any of this money.
Comer’s accusation that money was wired to Joe Biden’s Delaware address did not note that the money was a loan, and it went to Hunter Biden’s bank account. Hunter Biden’s lawyers say that he used the Bidens’ Delaware home as his address at the time.
Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) claimed that documents released Wednesday from 2020 showed that the Department of Justice was protecting President Biden. But in 2020 Trump, not Biden, was president, and the official who urged Biden senior’s name be kept off a search warrant did so because there was no legal basis to include him in a search warrant concerning a business involving his adult son.
And on it went.
Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark wrote: “The charitable view is that the first hearing was a dumpster fire inside a clown car wrapped in a fiasco. To put it mildly, the GOP did not bring their best.”
At the end of the day, it seemed as if Democrats had flipped the script that has worked so well for so long on right-wing media. Rather than being on the defensive themselves, they put Republicans on the defensive. And because their hits were based in reality, rather than a false narrative, they left the Republican committee members with few options today other than to take to social media, once again, to boast of all the evidence they have accumulated against President Biden.
The hearing was designed to give the extremists of the Freedom Caucus one of their demands, likely in the hope that they would agree to pass a stopgap funding bill that would at least make it look like the House Republicans were trying to fund the government. But today, when House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) brought to the floor an extreme bill that would have made 30% cuts to food assistance, housing, education, funding for border agents, and so on, and insisted on closing the border while funding the government for only another 30 days, 21 extremists voted with the Democrats to kill it by a vote of 198 to 232.
This was a harsh blow not only to McCarthy but to all the Republicans in swing districts. House leaders forced them all to vote for a measure chock full of enormously unpopular cuts and then snatched away the prize of funding the government. Such a political disaster speaks very poorly of McCarthy, who should have never put members of his conference in such a position. Losing 21 of his members in this vote is an embarrassment. The loss weakens the party for 2024: the Democratic ads will pretty much write themselves. And the members refusing to fund the government simply don’t appear to care, either about their colleagues or their constituents. At any point, McCarthy could bring up before the House the bipartisan measure already passed by the Senate. Democrats would then likely make up the votes he would lose in his own conference. But the extremists would then challenge his speakership, and that is apparently a challenge he is unwilling to brave
HEATHER COX RICHARDSON
POSTED SEP 30, 2023