The impeachment inquiry that Republicans started on Thursday was demonstrably without merit and initiated in violation of House rules and precedent. At the end of the day, after hearing from three Republican non-fact witnesses chosen because of their commentary in right-wing media, not a single hint of evidence was produced to justify the inquiry.
Even so, the hearing was extremely revealing—only that most of what it revealed was how ready Republicans were to manufacture false claims and wheel out conspiracy theories that have been widely debunked for years. This was partly because they had nothing else. Mostly, it was because every single Republican treated their five minutes of camera time as if they were doing a one-person play for Newsmax.
Through the course of the day, not only did Republicans showcase their lack of interest in facts, they also demonstrated that they are absolutely terrified of anything that looks like a fact witness.
Here are five highlights showing that the all-day event definitely had value.
5. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out manufactured images
During his five minutes, Republican Rep. Byron Donalds trotted out a series of images that were reportedly messages from Hunter Biden. They appeared to be screenshots of phone messages, complete with little green bubbles. However, these images, many of which came straight out of sites associated with QAnon, were neither actual screenshots nor at all accurate.
It fell to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to call out one of the worst.
In the actual message, Hunter Biden is worried about his ability to pay his alimony and is planning how he can get his life back together as he recovers from both drug addiction and a divorce, while hoping to find a way to pay back what he owes to members of his family. A friend replies offering Hunter a place to stay and help in planning his next steps.
But Donalds showed scraps of this conversation pasted together, which were meant to make it seem as if one of Hunter’s business partners was scheming to make a payment to President Joe Biden. It was about as close to the actual message as a ransom note generated though cutting words out of magazines.
And you can see exactly how concerned Donalds was about being caught committing absolute fraud.
Why wasn’t he concerned? As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, everyone in the room other than the witnesses were protected by the “speech and debate clause” of the Constitution. That allows members of Congress to lie with impunity, and Republicans put that ability into heavy rotation during this hearing.
4. Rep. Jamie Raskin shows that Republicans are allergic to facts
Throughout the day, Republicans returned again and again to one claim: While serving as vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to dismiss prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect the company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board. That claim wasn’t simply an item on a list, it was the only claim that many of the Republican members talked about. That includes Rep. Jim Jordan, who used it both as his opening and in his sweaty, ranty closing remarks.
The problem with this claim is that it’s simply a lie. It’s a lie that was debunked literally within two weeks of when it first appeared, in 2019. The story did not exist before Giuliani brought it to The New York Times. It was immediately shot down. It was the basis of the phone call that Donald Trump placed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an attempt to blackmail him into producing false claims about Joe Biden. It has been debunked by everyone involved in every way possible.
Now Republicans are wedded to this baseless lie as the heart of their “inquiry.” That leaves them fighting desperately to prevent any facts about these events from entering the hearing room. That even extends to preventing Republican witnesses from appearing.
The biggest chuckle of the whole thing is how Jordan tries to pretend that somehow the Burisma lie can exist independent of Giuliani when everyone involved confirms that the story did not even exist until Giuliani began shopping it around in 2019. Everything that they are leaning on now, including that infamous FBI form 1023, was created in an effort to prop up Giuliani’s massive lie.
3. Rep. Robert Garcia shows what actual corruption looks like
Over and over throughout the day, it became obvious that there was one name missing from the “evidence” that Republicans kept repeating: the name of the guy they were supposedly investigating, Joe Biden. Republicans showed charts of an array of businesses. They went through stacks of phone texts and emails. They detailed meals almost down to the menu. But what was missing from 99.9% of the things they brought up was any whiff of the president.
Here’s Jordan’s tweet from last week that practically represents a summary of the hearing.
Unable to find anything that Joe Biden has done, Republicans declared that there was a Biden “brand” that they could then use as a proxy for Joe Biden. What does this mean? Were there license agreements? Biden water? Biden steaks? Maybe big gold letters spelling “BIDEN” above the doors of hotels actually owned by foreign corporations? None of that.
What the “Biden brand” and “the Biden family” really translates to is “We have nothing on Joe Biden.” But in case Republicans had forgotten what real corruption looked like, Rep. Robert Garcia came complete with pictures of someone who genuinely had worked in the White House, visited with foreign leaders on official business, then collected $2 billion from those leaders the day after Trump left office.
2. Rep. Jasmine Crockett delivers one of many fantastic takedowns
The whole affair was such a shambles that as the day wore on, Democrats in the hearing were clearly having fun. Whether it was Raskin’s opening remarks that made it clear exactly what was going to happen, or Rep. Daniel Goldman repeatedly forcing a clearly exasperated Jordan to accept documents on the record following Republicans lying about those documents, there was a good deal of fun to be had from this pointless farce of a hearing.
Just watch Rep. Jared Moskowitz.
Almost from the opening bell, things went so poorly for the Republicans that it was obvious why even Fox had relegated this thing to their business channel. Five years of investigating the same false claims had not brought them even a speck of evidence.
On any ordinary day, Moskowitz delivering the line, “As a former director of emergency management, I know a disaster when I see one,” would be a sure winner. But sorry, Rep. Moskowitz, that moment has to take second place to Rep. Jasmine Crockett’s remarks.
First, Crockett tried to enter a fact sheet into the record. When Jordan and Rep. James Comer objected, Crockett wasn’t even phased. “Of course y’all gonna object,” she said smoothly, “but we gon’ talk about it.” Then she moved on to a moment of absolute destruction.
Not only did Crockett absolutely slay Republicans over the idea that nothing they were talking about showed any connection to Joe Biden, but also she took the time to review some of the genuine threats raised by actions of Donald Trump. That included waving some of the images that were taken during the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where boxes of classified documents were stacked in a bathroom.
Crockett: “When we start talking about things that look like evidence, they [Republicans] want to act like they’re blind. They don’t know what this is. These are our national secrets! Looks like in the shitter to me.”
1. Rep. Greg Casar blows apart the entire basis of the Republican ‘inquiry’
Throughout the day, in their hundreds of mentions of Hunter Biden, Republicans kept insisting that they were all about “equal treatment under the law,” and that Joe Biden’s son was getting off too lightly because of that “Biden brand.”
But when it came right down to it, Casar simply blew away that claim—as well as any claim that Republicans were concerned about justice at all—with one simple action.
Casar: “Will members of the Oversight Committee please raise your hand if you believe both Hunter and Trump should be held accountable for any of the indictments against them if convicted by a jury of their peers?”
Casar’s hand went up. The other Democrats on the committee raised their hands. Not one single Republican joined them.
In 30 seconds, Casar demonstrated absolutely that far from being about “equal justice,” Republicans are there to ensure unequal justice and to do the bidding of Donald Trump. It was a masterclass in simply calling on people to put up or shut up. And it should be an example that is not forgotten.
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