It was a predictable farce. Republicans have been screaming for weeks that the House of Representatives has not taken a vote on impeachment to formalize the rules and procedures thereof. The Constitution sets no such mandate: the Congress has, as part of its oversight powers, the authority to launch an investigation without this formal measure, and a federal court backed that up this month. But this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a resolution to formalize the rules and procedures nonetheless. So, in the lead-up to Thursday’s vote on those rules and procedures, the Republicans dismissed it all as Stalinism.
That was after the usual carping about how this has been a secret process, brought to a new level by Devin Nunes, who called the House Intelligence Committee a “cult.” Never mind that Nunes sits on the committee and so is free to attend every bit of testimony and cross-examine the witnesses, as are plenty of his Republican colleagues. (On Fox News just now, a Very Serious News Anchor repeatedly spread the lie that Republicans are not allowed in the room.) And never mind that a former top aide to Nunes joined the White House and misrepresented himself to the president as a Ukraine expert in order to feed him conspiracy theories. And never mind that Nunes, who announced himself appalled here that the Democrats would supposedly turn the Intelligence Committee into a partisan weapon, was once caught playing Secret Agent Man when he snuck onto the White House grounds to receive leaked information from senior administration officials that he used to run interference on the Russia probe. Apparently, he considered this to be “oversight.”
NUNES: “What we’re seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee down in the SCIF right now is like a cult. These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy theory to another. And the media are the cult followers.” pic.twitter.com/Y2roq9qKPN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)
What do you expect from a guy who’s currently suing a Twitter Cow?
But the real piece de resistance came courtesy of Steve Scalise, who brought along a poster to show just how unhappy he is with proceedings.
Steve Scalise thinks Stalin could’ve been impeached lol pic.twitter.com/zBTyMuu1qK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)
Exactly how does Steve Scalise think leadership changes occurred in the Soviet Union? Leon Trotsky did not get impeached, though it wouldn’t have been the worst thing to get a guy like Stalin out of the driver’s seat.
Based on the cutout, it would seem the “Soviet-style” proceedings occurred in the “37 days” that Democrats have been interviewing witnesses behind closed doors. This is nonsense: we are still at the investigation stage. The accused does not get to send his lawyer along with the cops when they interview a witness. (That’s not to mention that some of what’s under discussion may be classified. People testify behind closed doors at the Capitol all the time.) When hearings begin in the House, it will be more like a grand-jury equivalent—meaning the defense still does not get to send a lawyer or question witnesses. The president will get his due process when the trial is held in the Senate, assuming the House votes to send it there. In the meantime, House Republicans are present for all of this and are undoubtedly running defense for him throughout.
But Scalise made clear his “Soviet-style” label also applies to the rules the Democrats put up for a vote, which allow committee chairs like Adam Schiff to veto the Republicans’ inevitably batshit witnesses. Republicans have long sought to disrupt public hearings with made-for-TV crapola. It’s not hard to imagine Republicans calling for Strzok and Page, or Bruce and Nellie Ohr, or any of the other characters from the Trump Conspiracy Cinematic Universe. Ideally, the Republicans would call witnesses relevant to the inquiry in a good-faith effort to get to the bottom of whether the president committed gross misconduct, but Nancy Pelosi was not born yesterday. She knows they might just as easily call Cap’n Crunch.
So, to recap: it was Soviet-style without rules, but now the rules are Soviet-style. Does anyone really believe there are a set of rules that Republicans would find legitimate? Is there any scenario in which they would grant a shred of legitimacy to the investigation, even if pretty much everything the president has said about his dealings with Ukraine has been a lie?