It’s generally not a good sign when the witnesses you call undermine the case you’re trying to make. But that’s precisely what happened as Republicans kicked off their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Thursday—a politically-motivated fishing expedition as embarrassing for the GOP as it is dangerous for democracy.
“I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment,” conservative lawyer Jonathan Turley, one of three witnesses to take the stand for the GOP, said in what is surely the defining line of the opening hearing. “I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing,” another witness, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, said at another point. “In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.”
That, of course, runs contrary to the overheated allegations of “corruption” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy leveled against Biden in directing the impeachment proceedings and that House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer insists he can back up. “Since assuming our Republican majority in January,” Comer said in his opening statement, “the House Oversight and Accountability Committee has uncovered a mountain of evidence revealing how Joe Biden abused his public office for his family’s financial gain.”
But if it’s true that he has this “overwhelming” proof of wrongdoing, why hasn’t he produced any of it? For months now, Comer, Jim Jordan, and the rest of McCarthy’s “investigators” have been yakking on cable news about supposed wrongdoing by Biden, all without offering anything concrete that actually implicates the president. Thursday was more of the same—plenty of talk about Hunter Biden, who has been indicted, and a lot of smarmy rhetoric about holding Biden accountable, but little in the way of substance as it pertains to the president’s supposed misconduct. The only difference between the theatrics Thursday and their previous performances on Newsmax and the like? A far bigger stage for them to flop on. “This is an embarrassment,” Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told her Republican counterparts.
She’s not the only one who thought so. “Today really was rock bottom,” said Natalie Winters, a co-host of Steve Bannon’s far-right War Room podcast. “Our House Republicans don’t know what they’re doing.”
“I don’t know what was achieved over these last six-plus hours,” added Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans’ arguments for impeachment is mind blowing,” as a senior GOP aide told CNN’s Melanie Zanona. “This is an unmitigated disaster.”
It was a humiliating outing for Comer and company, who executed the hearing with all the ineptitude you’d expect from this motley bunch. But if the House Republicans’ performance stunk, it was in no small part due to the material they had to work with—especially compared with the actual wrongdoing by Donald Trump they’ve ignored in his two impeachments and now four indictments. “I can’t seem to find the crime, and honestly no one has testified of what crime they believe the president of the United States has committed,” Democrat Jasmine Crockett said in a lacerating takedown of her GOP colleagues. “But when we start talking about things that look like evidence, they want to act like they blind,” the Texas representative said, holding up a photo of classified documents stored in one of Trump’s bathrooms. “These are our national secrets—looks like in the shitter, to me.”
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“Until they find some evidence,” Crockett continued, “we need to get back to the peoples’ work, which means keeping this government open.”
Indeed, this farce—both a Benghazi-style political hit job and an effort to avenge Trump—would be ugly enough on its own. But the fact that it was set against the backdrop of a looming government shutdown is even more egregious. If these people had a shred of seriousness or sense of duty to the American public, they would be working with Democrats to fund the government—regardless of what Matt Gaetz and his gang of obstructionists think. Instead, they’re spending what are likely to be the last days of a “functioning” government on political stunts, from Jordan’s field hearing in Chicago on Democrats’ “pro-criminal policies” to Comer’s impeachment circus. “If James Comer is going to waste all of our time distracting us from his party shutting down the government,” as Democrat Jared Moskowitz put it after the hearing, “he should probably know what his own witnesses are going to say beforehand.”
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