early and often

Republicans Held an Impeachment Hearing and It Turned Into a Clown Show

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden was already a disappointment before it started on Thursday. In prepared testimony, two of the three witnesses called by Republicans explicitly said there was not enough evidence to warrant removing President Joe Biden from office. This included Jonathan Turley, the law professor and Fox News contributor, who said, “I do not believe that the evidence currently meets the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor needed for an article of impeachment.”

Republican Lauren Boebert asked Turley, “Where does selling access to an executive office fall in terms of what justifies an impeachment inquiry and what is deemed an impeachable offense?” and got an extended legal discussion, which included multiple references to the U.S. code. “I shouldn’t have asked Turley a question,” she told a staffer, disappointed, as she got up to leave the hearing room. “He was a crappy witness.”

The hearing, which was an effort to lay out the Republican case for connecting Biden with his son Hunter’s sleazy overseas business dealings, started with some promise. The hearing room overflowed with reporters and the full array of perennial hearing attendees. The left-wing Congressional Integrity Project sent observers — one in a mask — wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the face of committee chair James Comer and the slogan “no evidence” written above it. Only a few chairs down sat the mother of Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist shot dead by Capitol Police on January 6 while trying to break into the House chamber, and conservative media personality Tom Fitton.

Other lowlights included one member referring to a “shitter” in a hearing, while another repeatedly used the word “bullshit.” This was also likely the first time in the nearly 250-year history of the United States that a member of Congress made a point of order to ask the chair to instruct another member “not to introduce pornography today.” After all, the hearing was already pushing the limits by making C-SPAN PG-13; to make it X-rated would have been a step too far.

The hearing began in chaos when the top Democrat on the committee, Jamie Raskin, almost immediately made a motion that the committee subpoena Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, the former New York mayor’s associate in the 2019 effort to gather dirt on Biden in Ukraine. While almost all the committee’s Democratic members were present, most of the Republicans were not. This meant that the vote dragged on and on as Republicans scrambled to get everyone to show up to vote it down. In order to eat up time during the wait, members who had already voted kept on asking if they were recorded as voting in order to avoid the awkward silence as things dragged on.

Few Republicans were in the hearing room for the duration. Instead, they wandered in and out, bringing coffee and energy drinks to stay alert as the hours ticked by. The Democratic seats were mostly occupied for the first half of the proceedings, and Raskin appeared to grin throughout. In contrast, Comer sat mostly grim-faced and spent time peering at his iPhone when not expressing exasperation at Democrat Dan Goldman for repeatedly asking for unanimous consent for the same deposition from one of Hunter Biden’s business partners to be introduced into evidence again and again. By the end of the hearing, in a near empty room, a visibly peeved Comer was agreeing to this yet again, “for the seventh time without objection,” as Goldman continued to use the deposition to play defense for Biden.

Perhaps the hearing’s quintessential moment came when Democrat Jared Moskowitz used his five minutes to deliver a Borscht Belt–style comedy monologue that repeatedly provoked guffaws of laughter from the Democratic side of the hearing room and, at one point, forced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to cover her mouth because of how much she laughing. Moskowitz began his remarks by saying of the hearing, “As a former director of emergency management, I know a disaster when I see one,” and proceeded with an array of props and charts. Afterward, Republican Paul Gosar — who earlier this week gained attention by calling for the execution of Mark Milley, whom he described as “sodomy promoting” — expressed his disappointment in “the rhetoric” employed by Moskowitz, which he described as more appropriate for Saturday Night Live.

All throughout the hearing, the specter of a likely government shutdown loomed over the proceedings. As they spoke in turn, every Democrat sat next to an iPad, propped up for the television audience, on which the seconds ticked down toward a shutdown. Repeatedly, Democrats raised this pending shutdown to argue that Republicans were simply using the hearing as a distraction from Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s repeated struggles to manage his deeply divided caucus. But based on the emptiness of the room and the banality of the hearing, it just wasn’t much of a distraction.

GOP Impeachment Hearing Turns Into Clown Show.