House Republicans spent the past few years — when they were the majority party — eschewing oversight of President Donald Trump and his administration, and instead holding hearings into such topics as social media and campus censorship of Trump supporters. Now that Democrats are in the majority and holding hearings that describe the potential legal jeopardy facing the president, House Republicans are suddenly very upset about wasting time.
The GOP members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform spent much of Wednesday’s hearing with former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen (who also served as the Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chair) making it clear that they did not want to be there. “This isn’t the reason the people of West Virginia sent me to Congress,” complained Republican Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV), who ran her campaign on a pledge to support President Trump.
Miller said that she was “appalled” that the committee was listening to sworn testimony about alleged felonies committed by a sitting president, when it “could be focused on actual issues that are facing America like border security, neo-natal abstinence syndrome, or improving our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.” She said the committee should instead be holding hearings on child separation — a policy implemented by Trump’s own administration.
Even the Republicans’ oversight committee Twitter account repeated the claim:
The #CohenHearing was a sad display of Congressional resources.
— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) February 27, 2019
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) argued that the committee should not be hearing from an admitted liar and instead should be interviewing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about whether senior members of the Department of Justice had suggested that Trump was unfit to continue serving as president. Jordan is under scrutiny because he was named in a class-action lawsuit suit by former Ohio State wrestlers who say he knew about sexual abuse by a doctor on the team while Jordan was a coach there and did not take action.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) attacked the hearing for having “zero probative value and zero credibility” and argued that they should instead spend their “limited time focusing on improving the lives of Americans, creating jobs, or streamlining the functioning of our federal government.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said the American people want them to be securing the border, balancing the budget, and restoring “health care freedom,” and thus “have a hell of a lot more important things to do than watch this.”
The committee’s Republican members almost all repeated versions of this same argument: the whole hearing was nothing more than a waste of time.
But until the beginning of January, the Republicans held a majority in the House and therefore controlled the agenda for committee hearings. They spent a lot of time on political theater over the previous few years.
During the Obama administration, Rep. Jordan served on the Benghazi Select Committee, a Republican-lead effort that cost about $7 million dollars and held 33 hearings over more than two years into a topic that had already been investigated by seven other Congressional committees. The investigations followed a pair of deadly September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya.
The Select Committee found no wrong-doing on the part of Hillary Clinton, but in an unguarded moment House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted that lengthy probes had had the desired effect — hurting her popularity.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in late 2015.
Investigating censorship against conservatives
Two GOP-led House Oversight subcommittees held a hearing in July 2017 (“Challenges to Freedom of Speech on College Campuses”) that featured panelists like conservative provocateur Ben Shapiro and actor Adam Carolla.
Shapiro, who introduced himself as “editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show podcast,” claimed that cancelling speeches on college campuses “turns students into snowflakes, craven and pathetic, looking for an excuse to be offended so they can earn points in the intersectional Olympics.”
Carolla used his time to complain about a college cancelling an event with conservative commentator Dennis Prager, and he cracked jokes about students who “grew up dipped in Purell, playing soccer games where they never kept score, and watching Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, and we’re asking them to be mature.”
The three-hour hearing concluded with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) praising Carolla and Prager for producing a movie about “safe spaces.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) opened a April 2017 House Judiciary subcommittee hearing — “First Amendment Protections on Public College and University Campuses” — by complaining that Geert Wilders and Charles Murray faced consequences for engaging in hate speech. The 90-minute hearing featured a panelist from the First Liberty Institute, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an “anti-LGBT and anti-choice group.”
During the September hearing “The State of Intellectual Freedom in America,” conspiracy theorists like The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and the Boston Herald’s Adriana Cohen were invited to address the House Judiciary Committee about baseless claims regarding conservatives being censored by social media giants.
Though Facebook’s decision to drastically scale back on news promotion following fallout from the 2016 election has impacted all publishers, Hoft claimed during the two-hour hearing that, “If Facebook were seeking to hold a book burning, they wouldn’t have been half as successful as they were in eliminating contrary points of view from being accessed by the American people.”
Rep. King, who recently lost all of his committee assignments after decades of racist remarks, offered a written statement that featured Fox News contributor Dan Bongino claiming that Twitter is “messing with me too. It’s a cesspool.”
The three-hour House Judiciary hearing “Facebook, Google and Twitter: Examining the Content Filtering Practices of Social Media Giants” features executives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Republicans read off a litany of baseless conspiracy theories about conservatives being censored on social media, including Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) baseless claim that Google was censoring “Jesus” from its search results. King demanded answers about The Gateway Pundit’s reduced Facebook traffic.
The GOP members of the committee warned they would consider re-writing the laws that impact the social media giants.
FOX News contributors Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — better known as Diamond and Silk — were the featured panelists during a House Judiciary hearing in April titled “Filtering Practices of Social Media Platforms.” It was three hours long.
Pro-Trump personalities claimed they had been labeled as “unsafe to the community” by Facebook and “demonetized” by YouTube, even though both companies refuted those claims. Diamond and Silk also used their opening statement to discuss whether Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was trying to “interfere in the 2018 elections” by limiting their reach.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) also said he would favor legislation to hold companies “liable” for non-existent conservative censorship.
Investigating violations of religious liberty against conservative Christians
Less than a month after Trump’s Muslim ban was enacted, Rep. King presided over a February 2017 House Judiciary hearing, “The State of Religious Liberty in America,” about supposed threats to religious freedom in America that mostly focused on conservative Christians.
After opening statements, King and a panelist from the Alliance Defending Freedom — which the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group — discussed how “foundations of Western civilization” are “being eroded in colleges and universities across our country.” King also lamented that bakers are “forced to violate their conscience” when they are prevented from discriminating against the LGBTQ community.
Investigating Hillary Clinton and whether the 2016 election was rigged in her favor
Republicans called a joint hearing of House Oversight and Judiciary (“Oversight of the FBI and DOJ Actions in Advance of the 2016 Election”) to amplify baseless “deep state” claims about the Russia investigation and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last June.
In response to a long-anticipated report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz that didn’t find “any evidence of political bias or improper consideration actually impacting the investigation under review,” the seven-hour hearing featured numerous references to conservative conspiracy theories regarding former FBI employees James Comey, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page.
Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who was chairman of House Judiciary, opened the hearing by claiming Comey “softened and watered down his press release announcing no charges against Secretary Clinton” two years earlier.
Investigating the 2011 Fast and Furious sting
With a June 2017 hearing called “Fast and Furious, Six Years Later,” the GOP-led House Oversight committee looked at a botched 2011 ATF gunwalking sting that occurred during President Barack Obama’s presidency.
The three-hour event occurred less than a month after Trump fired Comey and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) used his time to claim there was a “highly-politicized climate at the Obama administration’s main Justice, focused more on spin and cover up than on transparency and fact-finding.”