After Hunter was involved in a car accident in 2016, the rental car company Hertz found “a crack pipe in the car and, on one of the consoles, a line of white-powder residue,” Gaetz read. “Officers filed a narcotics- offense report listing items seized in the car, including a plastic bag containing a white powdery substance, a Secret Service business card, credit cards and Hunter Biden’s driver’s license.”
“That is what we would call evidence,” Gaetz exulted. “I don’t want to make light of anybody’s substance abuse issues,” he added, doing just that, “but it’s a little hard to believe that [Ukraine’s] Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”
Keyboards began clicking. Some Democrats shook their heads in disbelief. Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s jaw dropped. Was he really doing this?
Yes, Gaetz was. There really is no bottom.
Gaetz went on, mockingly, about how Hunter “asked a homeless man . . . where he could buy crack” and “returned to buy more crack a few times that week.” Said Gaetz: “Again, I’m not . . . casting any judgment on any challenges someone goes through in their personal life” — of course not! — “but it is just hard to believe that this was the guy wandering through homeless encampments buying crack that was worth $86,000 a month to Burisma.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) responded with an oblique reminder about Gaetz’s DUI arrest several years ago. “The pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do,” Johnson said to laughter from Democratic aides. If he knew of a colleague who had “been busted in a DUI,” he said, “I wouldn’t raise it.”
Charges were dismissed against Gaetz, who, while exploiting Hunter Biden’s honesty about his addiction, neglected to mention that charges were never filed against Biden.
Undeterred, Gaetz soon resumed his grotesque attack on Hunter, reading from his ex-wife’s divorce filing about a “rare vintage of Scotch” that Biden received. Said Gaetz: “He was taking diamonds and Scotch from the Chinese!”
There are good people on both sides of the aisle, but in the quarter-century I’ve covered Washington, Gaetz is among the most vulgar I have ever encountered. He invited a Holocaust denier to be his State of the Union guest. He led the Republicans’ storming of a secure hearing room, endangering government secrets. And now this.
Forget politics for a moment. Forget about impeachment. As a parent, as a person, I wonder: Where is Matt Gaetz’s humanity?
I don’t excuse Hunter Biden’s greed, even if it isn’t illegal. Joe Biden should have done more to dissuade his son from this sleaze. But to defend Trump in this way — to exploit a man’s addiction to discredit his worth, and to cause political damage to his father, who at the time was grieving the death of his other son the previous year — is shockingly heartless.
Republicans on the committee, who last week howled when a witness made wordplay with Barron Trump’s name, were conspicuously quiet about Gaetz’s outrage. That’s of a piece with recent events. Two Republicans this week derided a Democratic staffer on the committee as a “New York lawyer,” which many interpreted as coded anti-Semitism. A GOP poster on the dais belittled committee chairmen as the “coastal impeachment squad.”
There were serious and even high-minded moments Thursday, including constitutional arguments about past impeachments and a debate about whether a crime must be statutory to be impeachable.
But fair debate couldn’t compete with the Gaetz effect. Though some Republicans engaged with Democrats, others hurled epithets: Farce! Travesty! Sham! Corrupt! Unfair! Despicable! Railroad job! Rubber stamp! Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), mocking the voice of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), told him, “Don’t give me the solemnity about impeaching.”
Gaetz, chin jutting out, at one point jumping to his feet in anger, added his own: “Democrat drive-by!” “Alligator tears!” “Clutching pearls!” “Total joke!” “Embarrassing!”
He didn’t care a jot for truth. “They have no evidence that the Ukrainians ever knew that this aid was withheld,” he said, ignoring two Pentagon emails documenting just that.
He taunted Democrats, threatened revenge and, incredibly, complained that Democrats had attacked Trump’s family.
“Hunter Biden is corrupt,” he alleged. “That totally exculpates the president.”
No, it doesn’t. Exploiting this man’s addiction shows only that Gaetz has lost his soul.
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