The great concern when the Democrats took over the House this January is that committee investigations and testimony would be used as a kind of circus. Easily the most concerning example was the House Judiciary Committee, now being led by New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
Rep. Nadler, for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, began the Trump administration by refusing to attend the inauguration, calling Trump’s election “illegitimate.”
Things haven’t improved since then. And, if there’s going to be any sort of push to impeach the president, it goes through the Judiciary Committee, the body that determines whether grounds for impeachment exist.
How convenient that it’s now being led by a man who considers the president “illegitimate,” even if he said he wanted to avoid impeachment when it became clear he was going to be the committee chairman. (That should be comforting to Trump supporters.)
And the sad thing is, he might be one of the more restrained members of that august body, at least if the voluntary appearance of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker before the Judiciary Committee on Friday was any indication.
In fact, Nadler seemed to crack a smile when Whitaker reminded him that his five minutes were up during a contentious period of questioning. Smiles weren’t exactly beaming all around the room during the hearing, which sought to determine what involvement, if any, Whitaker has had in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
An issue like that requires some nuanced questioning. So, here’s a montage of Democrats taking those sorts of nuanced questions and demanding yes or no answers from Whitaker:
No less than 37 times in 76 seconds did Democrats demand a “yes or no” on a question that probably had significant shades of gray.
The video opens with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas demanding a binary answer even as Whitaker tries to explain. Things went roughly along those lines for the next minute and change.
One of the more odd exchanges came with Rep. Eric Swalwell of California. You may recognize him as the guy who wants to seize your “assault weapons” and joked about using nuclear weapons to do it. The video doesn’t provide the full context of the exchange, so here’s one fuller exchange from The Daily Caller:
Swalwell: Is Mr. Mueller honest? Do you believe he’s honest, yes or no?
Whitaker: I have no reason to believe he’s not honest, so, yes, I do believe he’s honest.
Swalwell: The president has called him conflicted. The president’s called him conflicted and you oversee the investigation, do you believe that Mr. Mueller’s conflicted?
Whitaker: As I sit here today, I don’t have any reason to believe that.
“So you don’t believe — you believe he’s honest, you don’t believe he’s conflicted,” Swalwell continued. “Can you say right now, Mr. President, Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted?”
“Congressman, I’m not a puppet to repeat what you’re saying,” Whitaker responded.
This continues for quite some time, and as you can see, none of these “yes or no” questions seem to be designed to get more information. What they are designed for, however, is some face time on MSNBC and a good clip for the donor emails.
There was also Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York asked, “We’re all trying to figure out, ‘who are you?’ ‘where did you come from?’ and ‘how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice? So hopefully you can help me work through this confusion.” When he tried to answer, Rep. Jeffries said that it was a statement, not a question.
That wasn’t the only gaffe. Take the point where Lee didn’t know whether her time had been restored. Whitaker certainly wasn’t going to help her, either. Not the biggest moment of the hearing, but worth a chuckle.
This was a gaggle of politicians who clearly came up with a strategy to play tough guy with Whitaker just to show that they meant business. Nothing got accomplished except for reeling off one of those rare time slots where C-SPAN becomes entertaining to just about anybody, no matter if they think the president is Ivanka Trump.
If you wanted substance, however, you could more or less just skip it, safe in the knowledge videos like this would provide a concise highlight reel.
Whitaker, by the way, won’t even be in his position much longer. William Barr, the president’s nominee for attorney general, is almost certain to pass a confirmation vote this week, no matter how many banshee howls go up from the Democratic caucus in the upper chamber.
In other words, this would have been completely pointless even if this were a permanent attorney general. So, what does it say when the Democrats get taskmaster-strict on the acting attorney general on his way out the door?
Your new Democrat majority in the House, America. Are you not entertained?
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