One thing is clear after Thursday’s first hearing of the new “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government”: The weaponization panel’s weapon of choice will be the blunderbuss.
It is possible that, by random chance, one of the witnesses may have said something that is factually true, but any pellet of accuracy was lost amid all the errant slugs that ricocheted crazily out of their muzzles.
They revisited the “Russian collusion hoax” perpetrated by the “fake dossier,” Fusion GPS, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. They conjured an “engineered” Trump impeachment and a “coordinated effort” to “sabotage any public revelation of Hunter Biden’s laptop.” They alleged maltreatment of Jan. 6 insurrectionists and suggested that embedded federal agents provoked the crowd to attack the Capitol. They went back a decade to revive the debunked charge that a politically motivated Obama administration sicced the IRS on tea party groups.
They imagined that the U.S. government funded the creation of the coronavirus, that the World Health Organization has been “captured by the Chinese government,” and that doctors have been wrongly “vilified” for treating the virus with hydroxychloroquine and other bogus treatments. They fantasized about a government coverup of harms caused by coronavirus vaccines. They imagined that ordinary people are being labeled “domestic terrorists” for asking questions at school board meetings or for flying the Betsy Ross flag.
Above all, the witnesses testified to their own victimhood. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recited a long list of Democratic colleagues who are out to get him as part of a “triad” that also involves partisan journalists and the FBI. Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party for Fox News after a failed presidential campaign, expressed her outrage that Hillary Clinton said mean things about her and that Mitt Romney made “baseless accusations of treason.” (Apparently, the senator from Utah and 2012 Republican presidential nominee is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.)
“RonAnon” Johnson testified about a conspiracy so huge it includes “most members of the mainstream media, Big Tech, social media giants, global institutions and foundations, Democrat Party operatives and elected officials,” all working “in concert” with “corrupt individuals within federal agencies” to “defeat their political opponents and promote left-wing ideology and government control over our lives.”
You’ve caught us red-handed, senator! In fact, the weaponization committee needs only one more thing to complete its work: a scintilla of evidence.
White nationalists get a seat on the dais
Rep. Paul Gosar just won’t stop saluting those white nationalists.
The Arizona Republican has dined with them, traveled with them, spoken at their conferences, defended them on social media and promoted their racist themes. He lost his committee assignments in 2021 when he posted a cartoon video of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a Latina.
But House Republican leaders, in their wisdom, restored Gosar’s committee status, giving him a seat on the House Oversight Committee. And Gosar this week repaid their confidence in him — by using one of the very first hearings of the committee to promote white nationalism.
At a hearing Tuesday on border security, Gosar declared that President Biden has “a plan … to deliberately open our borders and cede power to the cartels,” and thereby create chaos. “What is the answer to this mess for Biden and the Democrats?” he asked. “More big brother? More control? Even changing our culture?”
That is the very definition of the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory: that the left is deliberately importing immigrants to replace White people and White culture.
As it happens, Democrats on the committee anticipated this. At the hearing’s start, they tweeted a warning about Republican lawmakers “who are using today’s hearing to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories.” The tweet linked to previous expressions of great replacement sentiments by panel Republicans, including Chairman James Comer of Kentucky (who said Democrats encourage illegal immigration as “part of their social equality campaign to fundamentally change America”) and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania (who claimed “we’re replacing … native-born Americans to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation”).
Republicans saw red after the Democrats’ mention of white nationalism — “offensive” and “inflammatory” was the view of Rep. Glenn Grothman (Wis.) — but then proceeded to validate the accusation.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) both decried the migrant “invasion” of the country.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) informed the committee who the “million gotaways” — migrants who avoided capture the past two years — are: “stout young men … wearing camouflage, rolling hard … they’re carrying backpacks, they work for the drug cartels.”
And Republican after Republican claimed the Biden administration has conspired to endanger Americans with an “open border” policy.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials testifying at the hearing played it straight. Yes, they are overwhelmed by the number of migrants, and they need more agents. No, a border wall isn’t a panacea.
Perry repeatedly demanded to know “what changed” since the Trump administration ended to cause such a flood of migration. He was clearly fishing for the officials to blame Biden.
But John Modlin, chief of the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, testified that the real cause was disinformation. Apprehended migrants, he said, primarily tell border agents that they heard the border “was open.” Said Modlin: “All it takes is a few people to say the right words.”
Now where would migrants get the false impression that the United States has an open border? Hmm.
McCarthy blames Biden for House Republicans’ State of the Union hooliganism
Fourteen years ago, I was in the House chamber when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shocked the world by shouting two words at President Barack Obama during an address to Congress: “You lie!” In the outcry that followed, House Republican leaders demanded Wilson apologize, which he did, calling the White House and issuing a public statement offering “sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”
In retrospect, the episode looks almost quaint. Wilson might as well have been operating under Emily Post’s rules of etiquette compared with the boorishness of his Republican colleagues at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reportedly asked Biden in advance not to use the phrase “extreme MAGA Republicans,” and Biden honored the request. The president’s goodwill didn’t end there. He opened by congratulating McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He used the word “together” 20 times in the speech, hailing bipartisan achievements, offering to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff (“let’s sit down together and discuss our mutual plans together”) and closing with a rallying cry: “We’re the United States of America, and there’s nothing — nothing — beyond our capacity if we do it together.”
Republicans answered him with hooliganism and obscenity. Greene shouted “Liar!” at the president — not once, as Wilson had done, but over and over. As Biden talked about solving the debt standoff together, a woman in Greene’s vicinity (Politico identified her as Greene) shouted “bulls---!” at Biden. Some closer to the front — GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) among them — whipped their heads around in surprise.
House Republicans by the dozens groaned, booed, laughed, jeered, waved their hands dismissively at the president and pointed their thumbs down — ignoring an attempt by McCarthy, seated behind Biden, to shush them. Several shouted “secure the border!” One shouted at Biden that fentanyl deaths are “your fault.” Rep. Ronny Jackson (Tex.) noisily chewed gum, Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.) interrupted Biden with a series of taunts (“don’t say it!”), Boebert shook her head in disgust, others shared laughs about messages on their phone screens, and, in the middle of the mayhem, GOP leaders Steve Scalise, Tom Emmer and Elise Stefanik sat stone-faced.
Decorum has broken down before during presidential addresses. Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and said “not true” during an Obama speech. Democrats groaned and booed during a Trump speech, and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ripped up her text after Trump finished. Trump called Democrats “treasonous” for failing to applaud him sufficiently.
If holding applause is treason, one can only imagine what capital offenses Republicans committed Tuesday night. And the shouting didn’t end on the House floor.
In Statuary Hall after the speech, I caught up with Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Tex.), who had been sitting next to Greene:
“He lied about the economy! He lied about the deficit! He lied about us cutting Medicare and Social Security. … He lied about the labor shortage! … He lied about burger joints! … He lied about policing. … He lied about Mr. Pelosi.”
“So overall, you liked it?” I asked Fallon.
“I loved the ending, because it was over,” Fallon replied, soon resuming his catalogue: “He said a couple of things like we’re going to work together. He’s lying there, too!”
Fallon shared with me and Joseph Morton of the Dallas Morning News three pages of scribbled notes he took during the address. Among his observations: Biden is a “SNAKE OIL SALESMAN” (and, of course, a “LIAR”) who “MUMBLES” (Fallon thought this evidence of a “health issue”), engages in “climate alarmism” and “CLASS WARFARE” and is apparently a “a communist — accuse him of central control.”
Even some Republicans thought Biden deserved a more “respectful” audience for his “cordial” speech, as Rep. Ryan Zinke (Mont.) told us. But it requires leadership to keep the hooligans in line — and House Republicans don’t have that. McCarthy went on Fox News on Wednesday and blamed the Republicans’ outbursts on Biden. “Well, the president was trying to goad the members, and the members are passionate about it,” the speaker said.
This is how McCarthy repays Biden’s goodwill? It’s going to be a long couple of years.
Probe of Hunter Biden’s laptop already needs a reboot
Rep. James Comer is rapidly establishing himself as the Chief Inspector Dreyfus of the 118th Congress.
First, the newly installed chairman of the House Oversight Committee said he would investigate Biden’s mishandling of classified documents from his time as vice president, but not President Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified documents. Why? “The president has the authority to declassify documents,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Jan. 15. “The vice president does not.”
That rationale blew up a few days later, when it emerged that former vice president Mike Pence also mishandled classified documents. So Comer approached reporters in the Capitol basement on Jan. 31 in an attempt to establish a new justification for probing Biden but not Trump. But Comer succeeded only in confusing himself. “We’re very concerned about who had access to Pence’s documents,” he said — then stopped. “I said Pence. I’m sorry. Let me start all over. We’re very concerned about who had access to Biden’s documents.” Moments later, he added: “I want to be very clear, I was talking about Biden.”
Comer tried again this week, returning to CNN for an interview with Kaitlan Collins on Tuesday. This time, he said he wasn’t looking into Trump’s documents because “there’s a special counsel looking into everything at Mar-a-Lago.”
Collins pointed out that “there’s a special counsel looking into Biden as well.”
Comer, trapped, grasped for a lifeline. “Pardon me for not having as much confidence in this special counsel appointed by [Attorney General] Merrick Garland on Joe Biden.”
Collins checked him again: “But he appointed the special counsel into Trump as well.”
“I’m against both special counsels!” blurted out Comer, contradicting his latest rationale, expressed mere seconds earlier, for probing Biden but not Trump.
Comer is not bound by reason — even his own. Last week, he speculated on Fox News that the Chinese spy balloon might contain bioweapons from Wuhan — speculation he later admitted was based on “no evidence.” Yet he seems sensitive to the impression that he sounds nutty. He recently protested that “I’m sincere about trying to do the right thing.” His evidence: He didn’t vote to overthrow the 2020 election.
Baby steps, Mr. Chairman.
This week, after giving white nationalism a platform, he led his committee the following day into a doomed attempt to prove that the FBI and the Biden campaign colluded with Twitter “to suppress and delegitimize information contained in Hunter Biden’s laptop about the Biden family’s business schemes.” That’s how Comer put it as he sat in front of a blown-up New York Post front page screaming “BIDEN SECRET EMAILS.”
The hearing extended for six hours — including an hour-long break in the middle when the power went out in the hearing room. In the darkness, somebody on the panel (it sounded like Clay Higgins) said: “Now did Twitter do that?”
The conspiracies never end!
Committee members succeeded in mentioning Hunter Biden’s name — at least 82 times, a transcript shows. They also succeeded in bashing Twitter for its practice of punishing people (including multiple Republicans on the panel) for spreading disinformation.
“You can consider your speech canceled … because you canceled mine,” Greene hollered at the former executives. (She was suspended from Twitter for claiming that face masks and vaccines were useless.) “By the way, I’m a member of Congress and you’re not,” she taunted.
Boebert shouted about how her Twitter account was suppressed by the “sinister overlords” of “fascist Twitter” because she made “a freaking joke about Hillary Clinton.”
And Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) used the forum to complain that the covid vaccine caused her tremors, asthma and “occasional heart pain that no doctor can explain.”
But Comer and his sleuths failed utterly in their quest to prove collusion between the FBI, the Biden campaign and Twitter. The ex-Twitter officials testified that neither entity spoke to them about Hunter Biden’s laptop when Twitter, fearing that the tabloid story was based on hacked material or Russian propaganda, blocked it for all of 24 hours in 2020 before reversing the ban and apologizing.
It turns out Comer had no more evidence for his claim that there was a “coordinated coverup” of Hunter Biden’s laptop than for his claim that the Chinese balloon was a bioweapon. In both cases, he just made it up.
“My, my, my,” gloated Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.). “What happens when you hold a hearing and you can’t prove your point?”
Chief Inspector Comer has just found out.