Trump’s defenders are having an ever more difficult time arguing the facts, so they are throwing up distractions about the process.
Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz and his cohorts did not serve to elevate the quality of political discussion with their stunt of crashing Congress’ secure meeting room to disrupt the impeachment inquiry Wednesday.
There is nothing improper about these hearings, no matter how much Republicans bray about “Soviet-style” proceedings. The impeachment inquiry is taking depositions much as a grand jury does, or as special prosecutors did before the impeachments of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — in private so as to keep witnesses from collaborating. If the testimony were somehow weakening the case that President Donald Trump was abusing his power in his dealings with Ukraine, we’d surely be hearing about it.
But as we’re learning from disclosures, each diplomat who comes forward is making clearer that Trump indeed withheld almost $400 million in desperately needed military aid to a vulnerable ally; in exchange, he wanted Ukraine’s public acknowledgment that they were investigating discredited suspicions of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and a theory that Ukraine and not Russia was the computer-hacking culprit subverting our 2016 elections.
No other U.S. president has ever before usurped foreign policy for his personal political gain as is being alleged here.
Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, is leading the most inane contingent and the most primitive of responses: physically crashing the proceedings.
Wednesday’s scene of guys in suits going all torch-and-pitchfork in the halls of Congress simply created a circus-like atmosphere - in an atmosphere already so clouded with political discourse that additional amusements are unnecessary.
On Wednesday, the best Gaetz & Co. managed was to delay testimony by five hours.
Since landing in Congress in 2017, his main preoccupation has been appearing on Fox News as often as possible (more than 70 times to date) to extol Donald Trump and rail against his critics.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano noted on Fox News Thursday, the rules that permit closed hearings at this stage of an inquiry — the initial interviewing of witnesses — were put in place in 2015 by a Republican majority. The next phase, the actual impeachment hearings conducted by the House Judiciary Committee, will be public.
And for a party so obsessed with the supposed security risks posed by Clinton’s private email server, Gaetz and his gang were awfully cavalier about bringing smartphones into the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF). This was a major breach of security protocols.
To say Gaetz’s actions are unbecoming of the U.S. House of Representatives would be an understatement.
It is certainly within the boundaries of partisan politics to disagree about the Trump impeachment inquiry, but it is out of bounds to lead a screaming gang to disrupt a legal House proceeding.
If he follows through on his threat to do more of the same, the House should vote to censure him.
A longer version of this editorial first appeared in the Palm Beach Post, a News herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.