In the future, it’s possible that everyone will be asked, “Where were you when 20 white guys in suits invaded a closed-door hearing, violated the security of an electronics-free environment, tampered with a witness, and basically brought the impeachment of Donald Trump to a temporary halt on the orders of Donald Trump?” But if they are asked this question, it won’t be because it was a Great Moment in History. It will be because it was was a sad low point in human affairs.
But it’s not as if the day did not include a genuine demonstration of ethical behavior. That came when Republicans, after holding up the process for hours, had stacks of pizzas delivered. Apparently realizing that, unbelievable as that may seem, chowing down on a double-meat in the middle of the House chamber might just cause a rethink among Democrats who had at that point not called the sergeant at arms, the Republican Rep. Mark Meadows instead had the pizzas stacked outside and tried to lure the press into eating them. ““There is no quid pro quo,” shouted Meadows. “You can eat it!” However, reporters pointed out that they were not allowed to take gifts from Congress. The pizza sat uneaten, and eventually the same Republican gnomes who had stacked it in the hallway appeared to take it away.
Proving, if it needed to be proven, that the Capitol Hill press corps had infinitely more concern about following ethical guidelines than had Republicans in Congress.
Making the whole event even more ridiculous was the fact that a full dozen of the men who were staging a finger-wagging faux sit-in that included sending, “Here I am in a secure area where I’m not even allowed to have a phone!” tweets, popping out every now and then to whine for the cameras, and beating their chests loudly enough to be heard across the Potomac, were on the committees that were there to participate in the hearing. Not only were they not being cut out of this “secret” hearing, but they were participants, able to question the witness.
Even if Wednesday does not become the subject of “Where were you when …?” questioning, it will still be marked down as an important date. Because it was the date on which Republicans surrendered. They surrendered the idea that they could fight the impeachment of Donald Trump on either the facts or the proceedings. And they decided there was only one way left: destroy the institution they were elected to defend.
Every single one of the Republicans present for Brook Brothers Riot 2.0 was absolutely aware of the ludicrous nature of their position. Republicans have participated in every single hearing. They have heard every moment of testimony, questioned every witness, and are in receipt of every statement and report available to the inquiry. There is nothing hidden. Nothing secret.
The most obvious fact is that, if Republicans really wanted the testimony public, they could make it so. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and Devin Nunes already have all the testimony in their hands. If their concern was that the words of Gordon Sondland or William Taylor or Marie Yovanovitch are not being heard, they could read them aloud from the Capitol rotunda. After all, they’re so tough and brave that they’re willing to disrupt a hearing and intimidate a witness … but they’re too concerned about House rules to produce the documents that are already in their possession?
But of course, Republicans are objecting to the hearing not for any reason other than that Trump has objected. And Trump has objected not because of the process, but because of the results. The findings of the inquiry, from day one, are clearly that Trump extorted political favors from an allied nation by holding its very survival in doubt. Not a single witness has delivered a single fact, statement, or observation that takes even a half-step toward exonerating Trump.
Republicans can stage all the middle-school theater they want, but the truth is that they’re going to get their wish. They’re going to get public hearings. Those are going to come in just two or three weeks, when the inquiry enters its next phase and the articles of impeachment are drawn up against Trump.