An Extremely Short and Incredibly Stupid Spectacle

Photo: Andrew Harnik (AP)

Members of the House Judiciary Committee met on Thursday for a bizarre, exceedingly brief facsimile of a hearing, punctuated by dad-joke stunts, whiny monologuing, and above all else—an empty chair.

The hearing, ostensibly held to discuss Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, was kneecapped from the start by Attorney General William Barr refusal to appear after the committee ruled he would face questions not just from members of Congress but from staff counsel as well.

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But before the hearing even began, Tennessee Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen was ready to mock Barr’s apparent cowardice, walking in with both a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (it wasn’t even 9 a.m.) and a statue of a rooster, joking, “He’s here!”

Ha ha ha, get it? Thanks DAD.

Chairman Jerry Nadler finally began the proceedings with an opening statement calling Barr’s refusal to testify part of a larger pattern of White House stonewalling, which represented, in his words, “a clear and present danger to this constitutional order.”

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“Every member of this committee, Democrat and Republican alike should understand the consequences when the executive branch tells us that they will simply ignore a lawful subpoena from congress,” Nadler explained. “If left unchecked, this act of obstruction will make it that much harder for us to hold the executive branch accountable for waste, fraud, and abuse.”

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When his opening statement was done, Nadler gave the floor to Republican ranking member Doug Collins, who used his time to—surprise, surprise—complain about the Democrats.

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Claiming that the Democrats somehow purposefully prevented Barr from testifying, Collins moved on to his real gripe: The dear, sweet, sacred parliamentary procedure which—he claimed—Democrats had defiled. The horror!

“What happened yesterday was a travesty,” Collins whined. “When you do not recognize members for valid motions, when you call things ‘dilatory,’ questioning the motives of what members are doing it for.”

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“Here’s the problem today,” Collins continued. “If the majority wants to run a committee in which minority rights do not matter, parliamentary procedure does not matter, we saw it on full display yesterday—it will not continue. We will continue this exercise, and we will exercise this what we have as minority, which is the minority rights to ask questions, make motions. Because at the end of the day, unless we’ve forgotten Mr. Chairman, you’ve got more votes than we do. You’ll get what you want.”

Kvetch-session over, Nadler quickly wrapped things up, acknowledging Barr’s empty chair before the representatives.

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“Ordinarily, at this point, I would introduce the witness,” he explained. “But, instead, we will conclude these proceedings.”

Nadler then gaveled the session closed, while Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz attempted to steal one last moment in the spotlight, complaining: “Is it gonna be, Mr. Chairman, that there is not going to be a recognition of minority members who seek a legitimate inquiry as to the procedures...” Gaetz didn’t get to finish his sentence, as his mic was shut off, and the lawmakers quickly shuffled out of the hearing room.

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Great use of everyone’s time!

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About the author

Rafi Schwartz

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.