Republicans really, really want Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ripping up of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to be A Very Big Thing. They desperately need to frame her act of incivility as equal to or worse than all of Trump’s trespasses against democracy and decency, especially in the wake of Sen. Mitt Romney denying them their narrative of a purely partisan impeachment. (And yeah, they want to retaliate against him, too.)
Rep. Matt Gaetz is leading the asshat charge by filing an ethics complaint against Pelosi with, get this, the claim that “Nobody is above the law.” Gaetz is calling for a criminal referral, claiming that Pelosi violated a statute dealing with “Concealment, removal, or mutilation of documents,” as if every single physical copy of a document is sacred. This temper tantrum about Pelosi tearing up a document is especially special given that—as Dana Houle pointed out on Twitter—Trump is known tear up papers after he finishes with them, in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Gaetz isn’t the only Republican in high dudgeon about Pelosi, of course. Rep. Kay Granger is touting a privileged resolution expressing disapproval for Pelosi’s “breach of decorum.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried his hand at a viral video ripping up the impeachment articles and saying “acquitted for life.”
But Mike Pence had the creepiest take, telling Fox News that “I just have a strong feeling that she's going to be the last Speaker of the House to sit in that chair for a long time.” Which could just mean he understands that Democrats are going to keep the House and Pelosi will remain speaker, but it sounds more like he’s joining Trump in having some extremely unconstitutional things in mind.
Pence aside, you wonder if these Republicans realize how much they’re playing into Pelosi’s hands. She surely did not rip up that paper live on national television without knowing exactly the response it would draw—which means she was inviting their ethics complaints and resolutions of disapproval, shifting attention from Trump to her reaction to Trump. So Gaetz and Granger and all their buddies should feel free to bring it. It couldn’t be clearer that Pelosi welcomes their outrage.