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Officially, House Republicans censured Rep. Adam B. Schiff this week. What they actually did was give a YUGE in-kind contribution to the California Democrat’s campaign for the Senate.
That was just one example in recent days of the Republicans’ clown car backfiring in the party’s bumbling drive to weaponize the government against political foes — the very crime it inaptly projects onto Democrats.
Separately, Republicans trumpeted a House hearing into a recent report widely derided as a dud — except in their parallel, fact-free, Fox-friendly MAGA universe — that tried to show Democratic bias in the origins of the government investigation, ultimately led by Robert S. Mueller III, into the 2016 Trump campaign’s dalliance with Russian operatives. Predictably, Democrats, including Schiff, humiliated the Republicans’ star witness, special counsel John Durham, a Trump holdover and the report’s author, as they confronted him with the fact that he found no Deep State shenanigans and won no convictions.
And in a third episode, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) had to scramble to prevent one of his caucus’ most incendiary troublemakers, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, from forcing a House vote on a resolution to impeach President Biden. That contretemps included a nasty face-off on the House floor between Boebert and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, sponsor of a competing impeachment resolution. (The term “cat fight” is loathsomely sexist, but in the case of these right-wing rivals, if the fur fits ….)
All of these goings-on add up to a big waste of time and money. The Durham investigation alone took four years and more than $6.5 million to end “with a whimper.” Sure, the battling satisfies former President Trump and serves up red meat for a party base that likes vengeance as much as he does. But the Republican carnivores are doing nothing to advance a positive agenda for the country and expand their party’s appeal beyond the bloodthirsty true believers.
Which is just the point Schiff made in a fundraising email about his censure: “These political smear tactics divert the resources of the House away from the pressing priorities that Congress should be addressing, and that I want to tackle as your Senator.”
Are the Republicans so blinded by Trumpian sycophancy that they didn’t realize what a gift they gave Schiff by singling him out for supposedly misleading voters about Trump? It’s not just the money Schiff no doubt is raising for his race against Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein. By making a victim of Schiff, the Republicans polished the otherwise colorless congressman’s image and established him as one of Congress' most effective anti-Trump figures.
For anyone grounded in reality, the censure was downright comical. The resolution charged that Schiff, as the former lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a Trump impeachment manager, “spread false accusations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.”
But the accusations weren’t false. However much the Republicans malign the Mueller investigation, its account of a Trump Tower meeting, shared polling data, WikiLeaks and more establishes that. Forget the semantic or legalistic debate over the word “collude” and call it by another name: The Trump campaign and Trump himself were cooperating, encouraging and welcoming any help from Russia. (“Russia, if you’re listening ....")
Also, how rich that McCarthy, from the speaker’s dais, would cite Schiff’s alleged “falsehoods, misrepresentations and abuse of sensitive information.” You’d think he was describing Trump’s 37-count indictment for hoarding and hiding hundreds of classified documents.
Then, speaking of misrepresentations, there’s this: The Republican sponsor of the censure was freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, who hails from the Rep. George Santos school of self-creation, according to a deep dive the Washington Post did into her background. (Speaking of Santos, why haven’t Republicans censured him for his lies and admitted fraud?)
Luna charged that Schiff had “ripped apart American families across the country” with his falsehoods about Trump. Has she followed the former president’s career? Read about the Thanksgiving dinners nationwide disrupted by his divisiveness? Forgotten the families literally ripped apart at the border by his policies?
The Durham hearing was supposed to dovetail with Schiff’s censure. Yet try as they might, the Republicans on the House committee could not spin their way out of the facts: Durham found no criminal wrongdoing by high-level Justice and FBI officials (let alone former President Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden), no Deep State conspiracy to get Trump, nothing prosecutable on the part of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance mockingly said at one point, “I don’t actually know what we’re doing here.”
Neither did the Republicans, it turns out. The House is such a circus under their (mis)management, one can hardly wait for the jesters to bring their half-baked Biden impeachment resolutions back to the floor. If you want to weaponize the levers of power, you need facts, not pop guns.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.