After Obama-era abuses, Republican hysteria over impeachment process is absurd

After Obama-era abuses, Republican hysteria over impeachment process is absurd
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In a historic vote last week, the House of Representatives formally endorsed an impeachment investigation of President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE. After damning testimony by a litany of (decidedly unimpeachable) patriots, the recently-passed resolution sets the rules for a public impeachment inquiry. The vote also establishes parameters for Trump’s legal team to mount its best attempts at a defense. In short, the House instituted an objectively fair process — rightfully so considering the magnitude of the circumstances.

The House vote should have put an end to mass Republican hysteria about supposedly “secret” witness testimony. Relentless GOP caterwauling about closed-door hearings looked particularly absurd considering that roughly a quarter of Republicans in Congress were allowed to participate in the fact-finding portion of the impeachment process. Republicans must have forgotten that no trial lawyer worth their salt asks a question in open court (let alone in a public impeachment hearing) that they do not already know the answer to.

Complaining on cable news is now more important to the GOP than directly questioning key witnesses. Perhaps worse, Republicans doubled down on their antics as the House voted to formalize the public impeachment process.


To any objective observer, GOP hysterics about the “process” of Trump’s impending impeachment come off as farcical. Inane, toddler-like political tantrums are the last refuge of blind partisans without a viable defense.

But when considering years of politically-motivated fishing expeditions by congressional Republicans, GOP hysteria over an (per Fox News’ senior judicial analyst Andrew NapolitanoAndrew Peter NapolitanoFox's Napolitano says grand jury erred in Taylor case: 'I would have indicted all three of them' Fox's Napolitano: Supreme Court confirmation hearings will be 'World War III of political battles' Fox's Napolitano: 2000 election will look like 'child's play' compared to 2020 legal battles MORE) objectively fair, constitutional process is particularly egregious.

Four recent examples of Republican abuse of the congressional “process” stand out: Fast and Furious, IRS “targeting,” Benghazi and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Texas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing MORE’s email server.

Fast and Furious: Beginning during the George W. Bush administration, career agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives tracked illegal sales of firearms, with the ultimate goal of arresting drug cartel bosses. In the process, a number of guns went missing, with two ultimately implicated in the tragic death of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Years of costly Republican “investigation” attempted to prove that then-Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Joe Biden's continued 'Russian misinformation' defense of Hunter is conspiracy-level laughable Tyson fires 7 after probe into managers coronavirus betting MORE knew of these “gun walking” operations but did nothing to stop them. After an exhaustive review, Holder was unambiguously cleared (though the Justice Department faulted several other federal officials for acting irresponsibly).

The Department of Justice went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate relentless, overly-broad GOP requests for documents, offering days’ worth of briefings, interviews and handing over tens of thousands of pages of relevant documents. Those reams of materials did not deliver the Obama administration scandal that Republicans were dead-set on finding.


So the GOP kept digging, ultimately holding Holder in contempt for refusing to play along with their politically-motivated sham to unearth embarrassing emails. Holder’s contempt citation centered on the Justice Department’s refusal to hand over internal deliberations from long after news of Fast and Furious broke publicly. Moreover, the scope of the documents in question – internal DOJ discussions about how to respond to the GOP’s absurd political fishing expedition – raised legitimate separation of powers issues. (In a fitting analogy, a team of defense lawyers doesn’t turn over its private deliberations about a case to the prosecution.)

Most importantly, the documents demanded by Republicans were utterly useless to any legitimate investigation into how and why the “gun walking” operation began (let alone if Holder knew about it). Republican abuse of congressional “process” in the Fast and Furious case dragged on for nearly a decade after the GOP shamefully cloaked its political fishing expedition in the tragic death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

IRS Targeting: In 2013, reports emerged that political “Tea Party” groups were “targeted” by the IRS for scrutiny. Despite learning that such “targeting” was initiated by a self-described conservative IRS agent at a small field office, Congressional Republicans relentlessly (and wrongly) attempted to pin this non-scandal on the Obama administration. A career IRS official coasting toward retirement pled the Fifth to avoid admitting “mismanagement and poor judgment.”

The resignation of the IRS commissioner looked particularly absurd after an exhaustive inquiry revealed that both liberal and conservative organizations received additional screening. An FBI investigation found no evidence of systemic political bias at the IRS. Ultimately, the only groups actually denied tax-exempt status were liberal-leaning women’s empowerment groups. In short, the IRS non-scandal amounted to more hysterical Republican ado – relentlessly promoted by right-wing echo chambers – about nothing.

Benghazi: On September 11, 2012, Islamist militants attacked U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. ambassador to Libya, a foreign service officer, and two CIA contractors were killed in the ensuing violence. The assault on the American diplomatic posts coincided with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as the release of a video that caused large-scale unrest in over a dozen countries throughout the Muslim world. Immediately after the Benghazi attack, career intelligence analysts sifted through conflicting information streams, ultimately pointing to the video as a likely motivating factor. Obama administration officials used this early assessment, vetted by the U.S. Intelligence Community, in its public statements regarding the deadly assault.

While the exact role of the video in sparking the attack is murky, more recent reporting finds that it did, in fact, serve as a motivator for the assault. Moreover, the then-Republican-led House Intelligence Committee cleared the Obama administration of wrongdoing following an exhaustive two-year investigation.

But what are facts to get in the way of Republican abuse of congressional authority for political gain? No fewer than seven investigations into the Benghazi attack, at the cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, found no wrongdoing by the Obama administration. To put the GOP’s egregious political gold-digging into perspective, Republicans “investigated” Benghazi longer than congressional probes into the September 11, 2001 attacks, Watergate, the JFK assassination and Pearl Harbor. It should hardly come as a surprise that the last of the Benghazi investigations saw then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hauled in to testify at the height of the 2016 political campaign. As in the Fast and Furious case, Republican exploitation of the deaths of American patriots for political gain – openly admitted in the Benghazi case – is unconscionable.

Hillary Clinton’s Email Server: As then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden to keep Wray as FBI director Comey: 'Republican Party has to be burned to the ground' Juan Williams: The real 'Deep State' is pro-Trump MORE accurately noted, Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in utilizing a private server for her communications as secretary of state. In explaining the decision not to prosecute her, Comey also rightly noted that Clinton did not intentionally mishandle classified information. The GOP, never averse to unscrupulously hijacking legitimate congressional oversight for political gain, relentlessly kept the saga of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail saga alive well into the 2016 election.

The absurd irony, of course, is that the president who congressional Republicans now blindly defend has intentionally leaked highly classified secrets on numerous occasions. In one particularly egregious case, Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information compromised a critical intelligence source and placed vital foreign intelligence at risk. Worst of all, Trump disclosed these secrets directly to representatives of the foreign power that, in favoring his election, went to extraordinary lengths to subvert American democracy.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.