“A shameful spectacle.” That is what Americans witnessed on February 27, 2019 during the testimony of Michael Cohen during the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into potential crimes of Donald J. Trump. Republican members of Congress immediately began yelling at Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney and fixer. Republican wrath made little sense but the GOP Congressional theatrics were on dolorous display for the country and the world. Without asking Cohen a single question about the investigation into Trump’s highly questionable actions, GOP leaders showed themselves as well practiced in hysteria during their verbal assault on Cohen and his character.
What seemed entirely lost on these Representatives but not the country watching the proceedings was the fact that Cohen had entered physical evidence of the Trump campaign’s wrongdoing into his testimony. Republican Congressional leaders made no attempts to refute or question the evidence. They simply resorted to character assassination, along with racist actions and childishly embarrassing stunts.
Arizona Paul Gosar repeated the words from a sign held up behind him during the Congressional hearing: “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” while continuing to use his entire question time to shout insults at Cohen. “You’re a pathological liar,” yelled Gosar to Cohen, apparently forgetting that Trump has been caught in over 8,000 well-documented, public lies since taking office.
North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows had Lynne Patton, who works in the Trump administration as HUD new appointee, stand on display behind him as his racist refutation to Cohen’s statements. Cohen had previously stated that Trump told him, “black people would never vote for [me] because they were too stupid.” Ms. Patton stood silently. Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib called Meadows’ move “insensitive” to “use a black woman as a prop.”
This summary is the PG-version of the verbal assault on Cohen by Republican Representatives.
Unfortunately for the country, this calamitous GOP performance was not a one-time occurrence or some anomaly. It closely mirrored the 2018 feigned outrage performance of Republican Senators during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh before his appointment to the Supreme Court. While those Senators had little to say about the specifics of the allegations against Kavanaugh, their acting skills were on display in attacking their Democratic colleagues.
During the past nearly dozen years, since the election of President Obama, Republicans in the House and Senate have shown themselves to be not only partisan but with seemingly no interest in getting at the truth, with little to no appearance of a sense of decorum for their offices.
Independent confirmation of the awful proceedings may be found everywhere, but former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew G. McCabe expressed it articulately in his new book The Threat, How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump: “What I learned, in my appearances on the Hill, was that the goal of every trip up there was survival. There was no convincing anyone of anything. Everyone walks into the room with pre-drafted talking points and questions. Success is coming out with a sound bite that will advance an agenda. A Congressional hearing is not fact-finding. It’s theater.”
McCabe makes every effort to mention “both sides,” but our eyes and ears tell us that it is not nearly so diplomatic. We add to McCabe’s condemnation of the way our leaders in the House and Senate conduct themselves during hearings: this is “horrendously bad theater.” Bad for Congress, bad for seeking out truth, and bad for the country.
Nancy Avery Dafoe