The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The GOP response to Trump is one hell of an indictment

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) asks a question during the House Oversight and Accountability Committee's hearing in Washington on Wednesday. (Cliff Owen/AP)
13 min

It’s no surprise that House Republicans leaped to Donald Trump’s defense after news of his indictment broke late Thursday. What was striking, though, was how many elected GOP officials now sound like Trump.

“Political Persecution,” Trump alleged in his statement.

“Political persecution,” parroted Reps. Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.), Josh Brecheen (Okla.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.), and Paul Gosar (Ariz.).

“Blatant Election Interference,” Trump announced.

“This is unprecedented election interference,” echoed GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).

“An attempt to interfere in our Presidential election,” echoed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

“Witch hunt,” complained Trump.

“Witch hunt,” repeated Reps. George Santos (N.Y.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and more, including House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (Minn.).

“Weaponizing our justice system,” Trump inveighed.

“Weaponizing,” chorused Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Reps. David Rouzer (N.C.), Austin Scott (Ga.), Rich McCormick (Ga.) and more.

Trump blamed George Soros. Reps. Wesley Hunt (Tex.), Mike Johnson (La.), Harshbarger, Gosar and Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) blamed Soros.

They aped Trump in other ways, too.

In their vulgarity:

“Enough of this witch hunt bulls---,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.)

“This is complete and utter bulls---,” asserted Rep. Brian Mast (Fla.).

In using ALL CAPS:

“WITCH HUNT!” screamed Rep. Ronny Jackson (Tex.) and “Alvin Bragg is a NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT.”

In demanding vengeance:

“Hunter Biden: Call your lawyers,” suggested Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.).

“The House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account,” declared McCarthy.

“When Trump wins, THESE PEOPLE WILL PAY!!” tweeted Jackson.

In voicing deep-state conspiracy theories:

“The Regime occupying our country and systematically killing America is most afraid of President Donald J. Trump,” warned Gosar.

And in stoking paranoia among the unstable:

“If they can come for him, they can come for anyone,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.).

Of course, we hardly need reminders that Trump still dominates the GOP. Earlier this week, the House Administration Committee held a hearing where lawmakers and witnesses not only echoed Trump’s “big lie” from 2020 but alleged, without evidence, that there was “government voter suppression” followed by a “coverup” in a 2022 House race in Pennsylvania that Democrats won.

Still, the Republicans’ mimicry (conscious or unconscious) of Trump should put one thing into sharper focus. The debate about whether this helps or hurts Trump’s fight for the GOP nomination is beside the point. When it comes to any would-be Republican standard-bearer, the mantra is clear: We are all Trumpians now.


After three months on the job, House Republicans have so far failed to address the top issues facing the country. But at least they have addressed the No. 1 issue.

The House Oversight Committee hauled D.C. government officials before Congress this week to grill them on what Republicans call the “crisis” of crime in the capital, one of approximately 50,000 “crises” the GOP majority has identified. And Boebert was just bursting to release a stream of invective.

“Did you or did you not decriminalize public urination in Washington, D.C.?” the Colorado Republican demanded of a witness, D.C. Council member Charles Allen.

Allen looked puzzled. “No, we did not,” he replied.

“Did you lead the charge to decriminalize public urination in Washington, D.C.?” Boebert demanded.

“No, ma’am,” Allen answered.

Boebert persisted. “Did you ever vote in favor of decriminalizing public urination?”

Allen said he voted to keep public urination as a criminal offense.

“We have records that show you were in favor of removing that criminal offense and allowing public urination!” Boebert charged.

The councilman explained that, though the D.C. criminal-code reform commission proposed making public urination a civil offense, the council voted to maintain it as a criminal offense.

Thus did the floodgates open on the Great Public Pee Pee Debate of 2023.

“I continue to be amazed by what the majority chooses to spend our limited time on,” remarked Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.). Turning to the witnesses, she joked: “You have anything additional you want to say about public urination? Now’s your time.”

Boebert blurted out: “I do!”

There was laughter in the committee room. “No, not you,” Balint said.

Boebert couldn’t hold it. “I do have something else to say!”

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) did, too. “You’ve got to decide how many times a person’s done something and how in-public it is, but I’m not sure public urination should be criminally charged,” he opined, before adding that the D.C. officials “don’t want me to tell you how to do your job.”

Yet that’s exactly what Republicans have been doing as they devote their time in power to micromanaging D.C. and its criminal code.

When it comes to ending the near-daily plague of mass shootings in this country, Republicans have decided “we’re not gonna fix it,” as Rep. Tim Burchett, a Republican from Tennessee, site of the latest school massacre, put it. “Criminals are going to be criminals.” But maybe — just maybe — they can hike the penalty for peeing on the streets of the nation’s capital!

“Do you think parents,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) asked, “are worried about public urination in Washington, D.C., or do you think they’re worried about sending their kid to school and their kid not coming home?”

In fairness, urination wasn’t the only priority in evidence at the D.C. hearing. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) declared her disapproval of bike lanes and traffic calming. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) displayed posters of aborted fetuses and complained that Democrats “have failed to turn a blind eye to this awful situation” (sic). Greene speculated that the Nashville shooter was “probably taking hormones.” And Gosar, with extensive white-nationalist ties, complained about D.C.’s naming of Black Lives Matter Plaza.

This week alone, House Republicans used no fewer than three other hearings to opine on Hunter Biden’s laptop. They held an entire hearing on the “crisis” posed to our national security in the form of an invasion from Canada. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) used an appropriations hearing with the Health and Human Services secretary to denounce “gender-denying mutilation surgery” for transgender people. At another hearing, on the supposedly “woke” U.S. military, Gosar declared that “today’s military leadership has become the world’s laughingstock,” that the “military is recruiting mentally troubled people” and that “military schools are focused on describing oral sex, masturbation and pornography.”

I’m old enough to remember when the GOP supported our troops.

Emmer offered his belief this week that “the American people elected the House Republican majority to address a host of crises caused by the Biden administration.”

A search of the Congressional Record finds that, so far this term, Republicans have identified an energy crisis, a debt crisis, a border crisis, a fentanyl crisis, an opioid crisis, a crime crisis, an inflation crisis, an economic crisis, a banking crisis, a crisis in East Palestine, Ohio, a crisis abroad, a crisis in the nation’s capital, a productivity crisis. In addition to these crises, variously qualified as “existential” or “complete,” many more episodes have qualified as “alarming,” “startling” and “scary.”

Certainly, there are urgent problems facing the country — not least the daily degradation of democracy. But the House majority has done precious little to ameliorate their self-identified crises. They’ve twice postponed legislation on the border because of internal squabbles. This week brought word that they may not be able to draft a budget until after the debt-default deadline passes. Instead, they’re giving the voters a load of conspiracy theories, culture-war offensives, gratuitous insults (McCarthy said the 80-year-old President Biden requires “soft food”) and white-nationalist hooey.


Case in point: the current GOP sabotage of the U.S. military.

In the Senate, Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is blocking more than 150 Defense Department nominations because he objects to the Pentagon’s abortion policy — and is prepared to block hundreds more. He is jeopardizing the leadership of crucial military commands and making the military “far less ready than we need to be,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified this week.

While Tuberville’s blockade of military nominations threatens the military’s readiness, House Republicans staged a hearing dedicated to demonstrating that “progressivism” in the military is what’s actually jeopardizing “force readiness.”

There have been recent shortfalls in military recruitment, and research shows that economic and quality-of-life issues are to blame, as well as a declining percentage of young people who meet eligibility standards.

But Republicans argued that the real culprit is “woke” policies, though they offered no evidence of this. “Just because you don’t have the data or we don’t have the data doesn’t mean there’s no correlation,” argued Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.).

And so they blamed a decision by the Pentagon to order discussions on extremism in the ranks. They blamed the military’s diversity training. They blamed critical race theory and policies on abortion and transgender recruits. They blamed the coronavirus vaccine mandate and the military’s planning for climate change. Gosar, the lawmaker with extensive white-nationalist ties, accused the military of holding training about “imagined white supremacy.” (He also accused the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, of conspiring “to overthrow the sitting president of the United States.”)

Never mind that the military brass say their inclusive policies enhance cohesion, recruitment and war-fighting capability. Never mind that the commandant of the Marine Corps recently told Defense One that there is “zero evidence” that the military’s diversity efforts detract from readiness. Just as “conservatives” intervene to stop private corporations from practicing “diversity, equity and inclusion” even though businesses believe it’s in the best interest of their shareholders, they’re intervening to deter the U.S. military from doing what its leadership believes is in the best interest of troop morale and strength.

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), lamenting an “emasculation of our country” and citing evidence from the far-right publication Epoch Times, argued against young people enlisting in the “woke” military. “We’re southern families, we’re conservative families, and we’re not going to encourage our young men and women to join and endure that stuff,” he said.

Discouraging young Americans from enlisting to defend our nation — how very patriotic!


It’s a shame some Republicans are undermining the troops, for this week they identified another serious threat to our national security — the one posed by the rogue state to our north. The House Homeland Security Committee assembled a panel this week to probe “Biden’s Growing Border Crisis: Death, Drugs and Destruction on the Northern Border.”

“It’s really a crisis,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) informed the subcommittee. (That word again!)

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said that as a result of this “crisis at the northern border,” we’re “totally unprotected.” Concerned that an “infestation” is “corrupting us,” Kelly claimed: “If they were wearing the uniform of a foreign country, we would think we were being invaded.”

Oh, Canada! Who knew you were so menacing?

In truth, illegal immigration from Canada (typically by Mexican nationals who fly to Canada and then cross into the United States) has risen — from the double digits to the triple digits. A much bigger problem is going the other way: people crossing illegally from the United States into Canada. (Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck an agreement last week to address the matter.)

Republicans have a choice. They can build a 5,525-mile-long wall. Or they can heed the suggestion Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) gave the panel. “We cannot characterize our northern border and our northern neighbors as hostile,” he said. “We, in North America, are surrounded by fish and friends.”


The new majority isn’t even 100 days into Season One, but it has already gone to reruns. The committees, which made bold promises to expose wrongdoing by the Biden administration, have instead begun to recycle witnesses and reuse topics.

The Homeland Security hearing on the Canadian menace featured as a witness Brandon Judd, the National Border Patrol Council union president who has dabbled in the white-nationalist “great replacement theory.” Judd had already been used as a witness by the House Energy and Commerce Committee at its hearing on the southern border.

The Energy and Commerce Committee, for its part, held a hearing this week on “big tech censorship” — repeating similar hearings on the topic already held by the Oversight panel and the House “weaponization” subcommittee. It also recycled two witnesses, Michael Shellenberger (who previously testified about Twitter “censorship” at the weaponization hearing) and Jay Bhattacharya (who previously provided similar testimony to the select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic).

The House Education and the Workforce Committee this week used a hearing on “hiring and employment” to recycle Stephen Moore. Moore’s nomination to the Federal Reserve failed in 2019 over his writings arguing, among other things, that “I’d get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12.”

But when it comes to reducing, reusing and recycling, the greenest member of Congress is Jim Jordan. The Ohio Republican, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, postponed a hearing this week promoting gun rights after the school massacre in Nashville. That was probably a wise move, given the thoughts his colleagues offered this week on the carnage.

If only he had done the same for the “weaponization” committee, which he also heads. The panel had promised that whistleblowers would expose vast evil in the supposed deep state, but interviews with the whistleblowers raised doubts about their credibility. Instead, he has produced three news-free hearings in a row.

At the first, Republican lawmakers rehashed conspiracy theories. At the second, journalists chosen by right-wing Twitter boss Elon Musk rehashed what they had already written on Twitter. Then came Thursday’s hearing, at which Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Sen. Eric Schmitt, the former Missouri attorney general, seated in front of a row of people wearing “Ashli Babbitt” T-shirts, rehashed details of a lawsuit they filed alleging the Biden administration pressured social media companies to restrict content.

Apparently, Jordan worried that, once again, his witnesses’ wild allegations (“the Biden administration has led the largest speech censorship operation in recent American history”) wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. So he settled on an elegant solution: He hustled the pair out of the room after they read their opening statements, without allowing for any questions.

Democrats objected, and the hearing quickly devolved, like the others, into parliamentary skirmishes, shouting and personal vitriol. It became, in other words, what Boebert might call a public-urination match.