Republicans hijacked the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings and turned them into a circus

ReutersHouse Judiciary Committee holds evidentiary hearing on Trump impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill in Washington
  • The House Judiciary Committee’s public impeachment hearings have been a circus dominated by theatrics from Republican lawmakers hoping to crater public support for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
  • The panel’s hearings drew a sharp contrast to the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings, which captured the nation’s interest with career, nonpartisan officials testifying about Trump’s efforts to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.
  • As the intelligence committee’s hearings were underway, net public support for impeachment steadily grew.
  • But the judiciary committee’s sessions have been more about showmanship over substance and run the risk of losing the public’s attention and, potentially, support for impeachment.
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The House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment hearings captured the nation’s interest as they featured career, nonpartisan officials testifying about President Donald Trump’s efforts to strongarm a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 election while withholding military aid and a White House meeting.

They were sharp, concise, and driven by the facts. As the televised hearings were underway, net public support for impeachment steadily grew.

The House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings, by contrast, have been a circus dominated by theatrics and grandstanding from Republicans hoping to crater public support for Trump’s impeachment.

And they just might get what they want.

Polling showed that public support for impeachment was already beginning to drop after the intelligence committee’s hearings ended. That made it all the more important for Democrats to make a strong showing during the judiciary committee’s public hearings.

But House Republicans aren’t going down without a fight.

On Monday, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, kicked off a televised hearing to get the underlying evidence for impeachment from the Democratic and Republican counsels on the House Intelligence Committee.

What should have been a sober, steady proceeding erupted into partisan squabbling between Nadler and Republicans on the panel. From the start, Republicans constantly interrupted the chairman with points of order and parliamentary inquiries.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz struck a particularly combative stance, getting into a shouting match with Nadler at the outset.

“Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and members get dealt out of this whole hearing and for the next four hours you’re going to try to overturn the results of an election with unelected people?!” Gaetz shouted before Nadler loudly banged his gavel to silence the Florida congressman.

The hearing flew off the rails again when Nadler called a 15-minute recess after he and the committee’s Democratic counsel questioned the witnesses for 45 minutes. Before the panel broke for recess, Gaetz interjected and said the only reason Democrats wanted to take a pause was to hold a press conference and push their talking points.

Throughout the hearing, while Democrats tried to “focus on the facts,” as several lawmakers put it, Republicans lobbed attacks and renewed calls for Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to testify along with the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who was the Democratic counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, made some striking statements while presenting his evidence and summarizing why he believed the president should be impeached:

  • Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats were undertaken to benefit his 2020 election campaign and not the US.
  • The president “used his official office and the official tools of US foreign policy … to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands.”
  • “Everyone was in the loop” on Trump’s pressure campaign.
  • Trump’s actions have become public knowledge, but he still “has not given up.” Trump “and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security.”

In any other scenario, Goldman’s remarks would have been front-page news. But the veteran prosecutor was drowned out by Republicans claiming he was a partisan hack pushing for a politically motivated impeachment. Gaetz, in particular, suggested that because Goldman had donated to Democratic candidates before, his judgment was tainted and couldn’t be trusted.

At no point did the Florida congressman dispute any of the facts Goldman had put forward, all of which have been corroborated by witness testimony.

Monday’s hearing was reminiscent of the House Judiciary Committee’s first public impeachment hearing last week, which featured four constitutional scholars discussing the grounds for impeachment.

That hearing, too, broke into partisan bickering as Democrats and Republicans each tried to claim victory and lambasted the witnesses who didn’t share their views.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi instructed Nadler’s committee to use the 300-page report issued by the intelligence panel to begin drafting articles of impeachment.

Democrats have indicated they plan to zero in on two charges related to Trump’s actions in Ukraine: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice. According to CNN’s Manu Raju Democrats will make an announcement related to articles of impeachment on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

Trump, meanwhile, has refused to cooperate with or participate in the impeachment inquiry, calling the process unfair and unconstitutional.

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