The Fundamental Dishonesty of the House GOP “Protest”

They know how Congress works, but are banking on the fact that many Americans don't.

As Doug Mataconis noted in an earlier post, a group of Republican members of the House stormed the House Intelligence Committee’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) on Wednesday of this week. According to the “protest” leader, Representative Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) website, 41 members were involved (although most reports suggest a slightly lower number). The stated goal was to disrupt scheduled testimony before the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, although the real goal was press attention and to rally their political base.

I put the term “protest” in scare-quotes above because the stated goals of their actions are largely nonsensical.

For example, Gaetz states the following during the event:

“We’re going to try to go in there, and we’re going to try to figure out what’s going on behalf of the millions of Americans that we represent that want to see this Congress working for them, and not obsessed with attacking a president who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment,”

Source: “Rep. Matt Gaetz leads GOP protest over Trump impeachment inquiry, halting hearingPensacola News Journal.

But, of course, they know full well what is going one. Indeed, as Axios noted, “13 Republicans involved in impeachment protest already have access to hearings.” Further, there are a grand total of 47 Republicans members across the three committees who are conducting this stage of the impeachment inquiry (that’s almost a quarter of the House GOP caucus). This includes Jim Jordan (R-OH) who has been a major critic of this process on television, as well as Devin Nunes (R-CA).

I fully understand the role played by stunts in politics, and this event definitely garnered significant press attention. Moreover, I am sure it has heartened many supporters of Trump who see their guys as doing something.

However, the problem is that it is a fundamentally dishonest display. Further, the entire display was predicated on the knowledge that most Americans don’t know how Congress functions. This ultimately undercuts their defense of Trump because they know they cannot attack the evidence, so instead want to pretend like the process is the problem.

But, of course, Congress works in committees, which is what it is doing here. Importantly, those committees, as noted above, contain both majority and minority members. It is a lie to state that Republicans are being shut out of the process.

And, depositions are typically taken in private. This makes it harder for other witnesses to tailor their stories to avoid telling the truth or to coordinate testimony. This is standard practice, not to mention it happened in the Watergate investigation as well, so the notion that this is unusual or unprecedented is also a lie.

Indeed, one need not hearken back to Watergate to find examples of this, but rather one can simply recall hearings near and dear to the hearts of many Republicans still serving in Congress: the Benghazi investigations.

Note this contemporaneous report:

As Republicans and Democrats wage a political battle over the attacks in which four Americans were killed, U.S. Representative Darrell Issa issued a subpoena ordering retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering to appear for a taped deposition on Thursday to answer questions about the Accountability Review Board report he prepared on the incident.

Pickering and retired Admiral Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who led the Benghazi review board, on Thursday had offered to testify publicly before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.

But Issa, the committee chairman, insisted that committee staff members be allowed to conduct private interviews first because the committee still has too many questions about the ARB report on Benghazi.

Source: “House panel demands deposition from Benghazi investigator,” Chicago Tribune.

To cap it all off, we know that if this process continues forward, it will become increasingly more public. As The Hill reports, Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a letter Wednesday that interview transcripts from closed-door impeachment inquiry depositions will be made public when they do not “jeopardize investigative equities.” 

The Dear Colleague letter is designed to counter arguments from Republicans in both the White House and Congress that Democrats are conducting an invalid investigation, since their witness interviews are being held behind closed doors, outside the eyes of the public and lawmakers who don’t sit on the three committees leading the investigations.  
 
“At a time that it will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public, subject to any necessary redactions for classified or sensitive information,” Schiff wrote. 

“We also anticipate that at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public, so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand,” he added. 

Indeed, the only way for the impeachment process to move forward is for there to be a public presentation of evidence and a public vote by the whole House. To suggest that anything other than that is going to be the case is a lie.

Indeed, the only way that such an outcome would fail to materialize is if the Democrats decided that they did not have enough evidence to move forward, which seems rather unlikely at this juncture.

So, yes, I expect Republicans to defend their leader. I expect politicians to spin events and outcomes, and to bend the truth. But, the display this week, as well as the overall narrative that the current process is somehow nefarious or unusual, is simply dishonest and it should be called such. This is especially problematic because the perpetrators of the lies in question know full well that their claims are false and, moreover, that they are relying on public ignorance to give life to their falsehoods.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Impeachment, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    Mentioning the Benghazi hearings is important as Trey Goudy, who helped oversee them, is on record in multiple places defending the use of closed door hearings on that process.

    It’s also worth noting that these hearings are operating under the rules that many of those engaged in the protest voted for in 2015 while the Republicans were in control.

    But again the fact they think the best strategy here is to attack the process suggests how little luck they are having in attacking the evidence/facts of the case.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    So, yes, I expect Republicans to defend their leader.

    Depends what you mean by ‘expect.’ What I expect from any public servant is the truth and obedience to the law. But what I expect is more lies and toadying.

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  3. Kathy says:

    “Ignorance is Strength.”

    Make 1984 Fiction Again. Remove Trump from office.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My Rep Jason Smith sits on the Oversight committee. He did not take part in this stunt. I’m going to ask him why I should have faith in his ability to fulfill his constitutional duties and do his job if his fellow Republicans don’t.

  5. Teve says:

    But, the display this week, as well as the overall narrative that the current process is somehow nefarious or unusual, is simply dishonest and it should be called such. This is especially problematic because the perpetrators of the lies in question know full well that their claims are false and, moreover, that they are relying on public ignorance to give life to their falsehoods.

    GOP congressmen on twitter were boosting this dumb stunt so I scanned some comments a few days ago. Happily, 80% of the replies were along the lines of “Congressman do you wear velcro shoes or did somebody spend 5 years teaching you how to tie laces?” But sadly, 20% of the comments were “OMG yore DemoCRAP colegues are TRAITORS who should be ARESTED by WE THE PEOPLE.” etc. Have the trolls here picked a strategy?

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s reasonable to expect Republicans to want to believe the best of their leaders. But Republicans are trying to make it seem as if everyone the same piece of worthless shit as Trump, which is totally different.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    But Republicans are trying to make it seem as if everyone the same piece of worthless shit as Trump, which is totally different.

    That, of course, is the standard operating procedure for Trump and his toadies…

  8. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself: @An Interested Party:
    Apparently there’s some new book about Trump that contends he’s been a devoted viewer of “Christian television” since the 1980s. I suppose this must be a desperate effort to appeal to those fundamentalists who might be harboring second thoughts.

  9. Gustopher says:

    If the Democrats are going to be accused of keeping Republicans out of the process anyway, can they actually keep Republicans out of the process?

    Or make a big show of rewriting the rules to ensure that the Republicans on the committee get to send a single delegate to the hearings? As a concession.

  10. Teve says:

    @CSK: I am also a viewer of Christian television, by which I mean I saw a crucifix necklace on a porn chick one time.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Because he didn’t take part in the stunt? Got no dog in the fight, he’s not my representative, but if you asked me that question, that would be the answer you’d get along with my urging you to vote your conscience and beliefs where ever they lead you. (Course, I don’t run for office every two years…)

  12. Tyrell says:

    This is certainly political grandstanding and hypocrisy. The Republicans have done the same things. If the roles are reversed, we will see the same things going on. These political investigations are going to be a normal thing now. If the Apostle Paul was president they would start up an investigation trying to dig up dirt on him. They would be wasting their time.
    As far as trying to stop these closed door, secret hearings, the people who should be disrupting them are the average, working class people out here. Enough of all this secrecy. We need to send a message to Congress: quit playing around and get to work. Or go back home. Exactly what have they done for the last two years? What kind of bills and programs have they passed? For the past two years this dern Mueller investigation dragged on. And how did that go? Mueller winds it up by making inane and incoherent remarks; it was evident that he was not running the show. If anything needs investigatin’, that does. Who was running things? (I think we know). How much did all that cost the tax payer?
    Every member of the Congress and Senate should be required to submit a monthly report detailing how they have spent their days – down to the minute. And how much of our money that they have spent – down to the penny. They should also report what kind of legislation they are working on and what they are doing to help the people.
    Vote them all out. Clean House!

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Because he didn’t take part in the stunt?

    I’m not following you here. Because 30 or so of his Republican colleagues did take part in this stunt, thereby saying they didn’t trust him to do his job.

    I pointed out his not taking part in the stunt only to give him credit where credit is due, which might be the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to give him any kind of credit at all.

  14. @Tyrell:

    secret hearings

    They aren’t a secret. They aren’t begin held in public, but they are clearly not a secret.

    They should also report what kind of legislation they are working on and what they are doing to help the people.

    There actually is extensive reporting generated on this. The committee all publicly produce schedules and documents about their activities. You can track all of the activities of Congress here.

    And if you are looking for where the logjam is in terms of legislative activity, you might want to look to which party controls the Senate.

  15. JKB says:

    What is wrong with these Republicans, civil disobedience is only for the Leftists.

    But to paraphrase your sub-heading

    African-American in South knew how Jim Crow worked, but were banking on the fact that many American’s wouldn’t like it if forced to “see” it.

  16. @JKB:

    African-American in South knew how Jim Crow worked, but were banking on the fact that many American’s wouldn’t like it if forced to “see” it.

    This is remarkably asinine.

    Or are you suggesting that congressional committees are tools of oppression and that the protests in question are designed to overhaul an unjust system?

    Seriously, this is a ridiculous take.