From the very beginning of today’s impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee — designed to be a dry discussion of the constitutional grounds for impeachment of a president — committee Republicans went full insurgent, demanding recognition for dilatory motions and then roll call votes on them and interrupting chairman Jerrold Nadler and even witnesses. The general thrust of the GOP’s strategy was made clear in opening remarks from ranking Republican Doug Collins of Georgia, who conducted a high-speed and not-very-tightly-constructed set of complaints about the timing and procedures associated with the impeachment process, and particularly the willingness of Nadler to accept the central role of the Intelligence Committee as a fact-finder.
Collins’s style will inevitably be compared to that of Intelligence Committee ranking Republican Devin Nunes, who was less rushed and excitable, but required listeners to follow and then accept a bizarre series of conspiracy theories right out of Breitbart News. Nunes tried essentially to create a counter-narrative in which Ukraine, not Russia, was the subverter of U.S. elections, and Adam Schiff, the Ukraine scandal whistle-blower, the Bidens, and the FBI were the villains, not Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani. Collins is satisfied simply to challenge the legitimacy of what House Democrats are doing as the product of bitterness (“tears in Brooklyn,” an allusion to Hillary Clinton’s Election Night event) over Trump’s election, and an effort to preempt his certain reelection.
It’s a much simpler narrative to follow, but not one that is likely to impress anyone other than pro-Trump partisans. Collins repeatedly claims “the American people” are wise to the travesty of impeachment, and share his outrage at the offense to the dignity of the Judiciary Committee constituted by Nadler’s approach to hearings. And thus he (and at least initially, his fellow Republicans on the committee) has decided to attend the hearing under protest. It would not be surprising if they broke out in chants of “unfair” at some point.
Their arguments, such as they are, do mesh with the prepared testimony of the one constitutional lawyer Republicans called, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who likewise argues the proceedings have been rushed and that proposed articles of impeachment — assuming they are limited to the Ukraine scandal — are based on too thin of an evidentiary basis. But for the most part Collins and company seem satisfied to make outrage and procedural nitpicking the messages they send today via a sort of white riot.