It’s a good thing that irony is dead, otherwise Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz would have killed it this morning when he and two dozen Congressional Republicans, including members of the MAGA caucus like Steve King (who’s has a lot of free time since he was kicked off all his committees for his racist comments) and Andy Biggs (who unsuccessfully tried to censure Adam Schiff), stormed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in the basement of the Congressional complex.
Their goal was to “demand transparency”. The irony is that, according to Politico, “more than 45 House Republicans — nearly a quarter of the House GOP conference — already have full access to the depositions via their membership on one of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry.”
Further adding to the irony is that the GOP hasn’t exactly been a bastion of transparency lately. There was Devin’s midnight run. There was the endless obfuscating for the first president since Nixon not to release his tax returns. And there was so much more.
Republicans love to rail against the closed-door policy imposed during this impeachment inquiry, so here’a a note to remember: Since Watergate, impeachment hearings have been held behind closed doors. Clinton’s impeachment was also held behind closed doors. Democrats have not cooked up something new for Trump; this is merely precedent.
Matt Gaetz’s little stunt was never really about transparency, of course. It wasn’t even really about getting in the SCIF with their cellphones and thus compromising its integrity — though perhaps that was an added benefit. And maybe Republicans were happy to delay the testimony of the Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine policy adviser Laura Cooper, since every single day of testimony has brought new allegations of quid pro quo and various other impeachable acts. But that wasn’t the real reason they did it.
No, the real reason Matt Gaetz and “his coalition of the stupid” stormed the SCIF was to try and win the hearts and minds of their Fox News-addicted base. Because impeachment is both a legal and a political process, and these Republicans know that even if Democrats have enough evidence to impeach Trump, getting Republican senators to vote to remove him is all that stands between a President Trump and a President Pence.
Another reason for the storming of SCIF is that as the reality television president, Trump loves reality television show-style stunts and tacky symbolism. Remember, this is the guy who rode down an enormous gold escalator to announce his presidential run. And since the Republican party is now the party of trump all the way down, Congressmen who ingratiate themselves with the president will receive his help on the campaign trail. There’s almost always an opening in trump’s Cabinet, perhaps beyond, and they're aware of that as well.
And so Representative Andy Biggs continued to have staffers send tweets with the preface “Reporting from Adam Schiff’s secret chamber….” Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stupider, the remaining 15 Republicans ordered pizza from a Capitol Hill place called We The Pizza — because the sit-in of the stupid will be catered. The polymaths even cooked up their own catchy hashtag for the event — #StoptheSchiffShow — which is so self-parodic it’s almost funny. Numerous white male Republican congressmen made videos of themselves and their “quest for justice”. Trump got extremely excited about the whole thing and started retweeting tweets about the quest, along with the hashtag.
Did I mention that 45 House Republicans have access to these hearings, that they can ask questions and review transcripts and participate in these hearings? Well, they can — but the Republicans who participated in the sit-in can’t, because they’re not on the three Congressional committees dealing with impeachment.
This spectacle had nothing to do with facts. It was put on for the people who don’t completely understand that what they’re seeing is a stunt, a way to try and discredit the testimony of career government officials who are horrified by the way Trump is trying to use Ukraine as an oppo-research agency. Yesterday’s testimony from William Taylor was particularly problematic for Republicans, who are hoping to prove a lack of quid pro quo despite the fact that the prepared statement at the end of Tuesday spoke to quid and pro and quo.
The SCIF stormers will undoubtedly be censured, but the clips they show on Fox News will live on forever with no explanation of how a quarter of the House Republicans are actually participating in the hearings. For that deliberate misunderstanding of democracy, we can thank them all.
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