After months of being excluded from the closed-door “impeachment inquiry” of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees –- hearing only the selective leaks, lies and talking points orchestrated by Adam Schiff –- Republicans finally grew spines and said “enough is enough!” On Wednesday, they marched through the halls of the Capitol Building and down, down, down the stairs to the secure room –- a SCIF, pronounced “skiff” –- where the secret hearings are being held, and (horrors!) walked right into the room, disrupting the planned testimony of Pentagon official Laura Cooper, the person who oversees matters pertaining to Ukraine and Russia. What fun it would have been to be touring the Capitol that day and see history in the making, as apparently nothing like this has ever happened before.
No, I don’t mean the Republicans growing spines, though that happens all too rarely. I mean the organized disruption of a secret meeting. And they didn’t “storm” the room, as many in the mainstream press have reported. They calmly entered, following the lead of Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and sat quietly. They didn’t do anything to block the testimony; Democrats simply wouldn’t proceed with them there. As for the charge that they brought cell phones and other electronic devices into a “secure” room, it should be noted that this hearing had been specified as non-classified. According to Scalise, Schiff looked around and realized they weren’t leaving, so “he took his witness and ran out of the room.”
The GOP legislators ordered in pizzas --- 17, to be exact --- as Schiff’s hearing was delayed for five hours. There were also two large bags of Chick-Fil-A. So at least for a while, the fetid stink of the swamp in that room was replaced with the smell of delicious pizza and chicken.
How dare the Republicans behave so inappropriately! This just isn’t done. Never mind that Congress trying to impeach a President of the United States in secret REALLY is not done. That’s certainly a first.
Once the drama subsided, Cooper testified for over three hours, and, yes, it was behind closed doors. As reported by FOX News, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said there were conflicts between her testimony and that of William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who appeared (also behind closed doors, of course) on Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called what Republicans did a “stunt.” “This stunt from House Republicans is designed to intimidate people from revealing the truth --- hardly the hallmark of a democracy. It’s outrageous --- but not surprising --- behavior.” Hey, if anyone is an expert on hiding the truth and working against democracy, it’s Schumer. And if anything is a stunt, it’s this whole sham “impeachment.”
As POLITICO reported, New Jersey Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski dismissed the Republicans, saying, “It’s a bunch of Freedom Caucus members having pizza around a conference table pretending to be brave.” In truth, some were Freedom Caucus members, others were not, and the Freedom Caucus deserves high praise for not backing down over these months and recognizing the right of the American people to know what’s being done behind closed doors.
Apparently, the Judiciary Committee –- the one normally at the helm of any legitimate impeachment inquiry –- has been completely shut out, and we still don’t know why Speaker Nancy Pelosi sidelined Jerrold Nadler. (We do know that she must see advantages to having the Intel Committee run things, such as using its ability to hold classified hearings to shroud what they’re doing in secrecy.) Schiff is running this show now and he makes up his own rules as he goes along. There is no way to know if these hearings are being conducted with any fairness or any sense of accountability. But I think we might safely assume the worst.
Recall that yesterday, we looked at how Hillary Clinton wanted to run the Nixon impeachment hearings. Back then, the Judiciary Committee shut her down. She must look at what is happening now and rub her hands together with glee. Former independent prosecutor Ken Starr warned Wednesday in an interview with Shannon Bream that a “constitutional train wreck” is coming, but that it could still be avoided if Congress would follow the proper proceedings, with a real vote on the floor of Congress and hearings conducted in public. “I think this is quite evil and pernicious,” he said, “to have the battling narratives of what happened [behind] closed doors when there’s no classified information.”
Democrats say the Republicans were just taking (literal) marching orders from President Trump, but they say they did it because they are fed up. Some of them accused Republicans of doing this because they were scared after Bill Taylor’s Tuesday testimony and needed some distraction from that. But if you can get past the highly misleading MSM headlines, you’ll see that his testimony offered no evidence of the alleged quid pro quo (military aid in exchange for investigating the Bidens). Obviously, they'd subpoenaed Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, to testify because of texts he'd exchanged with two State Department officials, Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, in which he wrote, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Wow, the Democrats must have thought they’d hit the jackpot with that.
But they apparently hit a dry hole again (details below). It’s too bad we don’t have all the testimony, especially on video, because it would be fun to watch Adam Schiff trying with all his might to lead witnesses to say Trump tied military aid to targeting the Bidens. This would be entertaining stuff, the kind that goes down well with some delicious pizza.