The worst-kept secret in Washington is that Democrats could not be more delighted with the inept, unhinged and entirely unproductive hearings that House Republicans insist on conducting in search of pay dirt on Democrats.
Put in charge of a committee that Republicans have historically used to fan conspiracies and put their opponents on defense, Comer has gotten flak from his own side for failing to come up with much useful to his party. Voters are unimpressed and want the committee to get back to real issues. And Democrats have mocked his loony claims on everything from the Chinese balloon to the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. Outside right-wing media, these “scandals” don’t have much (such as facts) to recommend them. But a good deal of the problem lies with Comer.
Comer stomps around, sending up a cloud of dirt that falls mostly on himself. A recent New York Times report pointed to one embarrassing episode in his failed run for Kentucky governor when he leaked private emails to try to discredit an ex-girlfriend who said he abused her and took her to get an abortion, allegations he emphatically denied. The Times reported:
The month before the primary, a story appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader in which leaked emails suggested coordination between the blogger [reporting on the story] and the husband of the running mate of one of Mr. Comer’s opponents in the race, the Louisville developer Hal Heiner.The rumor whispered around Kentucky political circles at the time was that Mr. Comer had swiped the emails from the computer server for the husband’s former law firm and leaked them to the newspaper. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Comer confirmed, for the first time, that he had been behind the leak and strongly hinted he had gotten them from the server.
When it comes to real scandals, Comer is AWOL. He conceded he couldn’t survive politically if he investigated Jared Kushner’s potential self-dealing as senior adviser to his father-in-law. (The $2 billion investment from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund delivered six months after Kushner left the White House goes unexplored.)
Meanwhile, Comer has become infamous for making unfounded, cringeworthy allegations. He recently claimed with zero evidence that Biden’s dead son, Beau, should have been prosecuted for campaign finance crimes. The outrageous attack on the veteran who died of brain cancer drew a stinging rebuke from the White House. Comer has not come up with anything to back up his accusation.
Some of Comer’s allegations have been downright absurd. He was among those Republicans who rushed forward to claim that Silicon Valley Bank failed because of “wokeness.” No informed observer or banking expert takes that seriously. Poor investments and lax federal oversight were the problems; again, Comer provided no evidence for his crackpot claim.
Even sillier, Comer went on Fox News to suggest that the Chinese balloon that floated over the United States contained “bioweapons.” Comer asked, "Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” Apparently he meant to tie this to the disputed theory that the coronavirus leaked from a lab in Wuhan. (Speaking of Wuhan, Comer is one of the Republicans eager to distort reports concerning the virus’s origins. FackCheck.org found that Comer’s claim that a letter from the National Institutes of Health “proves all along that this virus was started in the Wuhan lab” was false and actually suggested it couldn’t have been the source.)
More recently, Comer sent a letter (not even a subpoena!) to the White House whining that the press secretary denied that three Biden family members got paid off by the Chinese government through an associate, Rob Walker. Alas, Comer conceded to the New York Times that he did not know the purpose of the payments. (The Times found: “The material released by the panel did not show anything illegal or improper.")
My colleague Philip Bump noted that Comer failed to address “the fact that one of the payments to Hallie Biden [Beau Biden’s widow] preceded that Chinese money transfer [from a Chinese energy company to Walker].” (As Bump put it, Comer’s allegations too often look like “a big corkboard with lots of pictures but little interconnecting string.”)
Comer’s repeated pratfalls have made good copy — for Democrats. The Congressional Integrity Project, a Democratic group investigating the MAGA investigators, found the perfect poster boy in Comer. The group recently put up a billboard in Comer’s district quoting from the Times (“angry and vindictive,” “an aggressive promoter of sinister-sounding claims”).
Whether it is Comer’s unfounded China allegations or the push from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Republicans have been ignored or ridiculed in mainstream news coverage. Meanwhile, Democrats are getting plenty of ammunition for their argument that Republicans are reckless and shouldn’t be trusted with power. But don’t expect Comer or his colleagues to let up anytime soon.