The Speaker’s Lobby: Dominating the DC news cycle
There are weeks on Capitol Hill where one story dominates.
Last week it was the defense bill.
But when the former President of the United States appears headed toward another indictment, you know what prevails.
IN THE SENATE, TIME IS PARAMOUNT
This is just not former President Trump duking it out with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Nor is this Mr. Trump facing prosecution over his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
This is a likely indictment connected to the riot at the Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
And even though former President Trump hasn’t been in office in two-and-a-half-years, he still manages to command nearly every cubic centimeter of news oxygen and political conversations on Capitol Hill.
Word of additional legal action followed a familiar script on Capitol Hill. Many of Mr. Trump’s fiercest loyalists rushing to defend him. Then there were a few Republicans spinning or slightly distancing themselves from former President Trump. Democrats – per usual – went all in, excoriating the former President.
‘It’s absolute bull—-,’ proclaimed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., one of Mr. Trump’s closest allies. ‘This is the only way the Democrats have to beat President Trump is to arrest him. Smear him. Charge him with ridic, useless charges. All they want is a coverup of Joe Biden’s crimes. Hunter Biden’s crimes.’
Greene said that the American justice system was ‘worse than some of the most corrupt, third world countries.’ She then proclaimed that Mr. Trump ‘is proven innocent time and time and time again and he’ll be proven innocent again.’
And now for a diametrically-opposed view from the Democrats.
‘There will be criminal accountability for everybody who committed crimes against the government,’ said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. ‘We’re talking about a violent insurrection, surrounding an insider, political coup. This is a matter of the utmost pressing urgency to the American people to make sure we never relive something like that.’
‘The President was a central figure in an effort to overturn an election. An effort to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our history,’ said Mr. Trump’s nemesis, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Schiff served on the House’s panel investigating the 2021 riot at the Capitol. However, the California Democrat wondered why it may have taken so long to target the former President.
‘They moved quickly when it came to those who broke into this building behind us and assaulted police officers. But it seemed like almost a year, if not more, before they started looking at those who did the organizing. Did the inciting. Those who conspired to defraud the American people.’
Schiff then suggested that the 1/6 committee ‘unearthed evidence that the Justice Department could not ignore.’
HOUSE REPUBLICANS NARROWLY PASS CONTROVERSIAL DEFENSE BILL
That said, there was consternation at one point by prosecutors that the 1/6 committee wasn’t helpful in providing information to the DoJ for potential criminal probes.
In fact, much of the week in Congress was about 2024 – even though it didn’t appear to be about 2024.
The House Oversight Committee heard from two senior IRS whistleblowers who claim that Hunter Biden should have faced felony charges over his tax returns rather than a misdemeanor as part of his plea deal.
‘They were recommending for approval, felony and misdemeanor charges for the 2017, ‘18 and ‘19 tax years. That did not happen here. And I am not sure why,’ testified IRS agent Joseph Ziegler.
Democrats said the IRS whistleblowers weren’t responsible for deciding who is prosecuted and what charges they may face. Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss said he had the ultimate authority to bring charges. But the whistleblowers – and many Republicans – believe pressure from above handcuffed prosecutors.
‘We’ve got the two best agents in the place on the case,’ said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. ‘And then, ‘Shazam!’ Something changes.’
At one point in the hearing, Greene warned everyone that ‘viewer discretion was advised.’ She then displayed lewd poster boards of Hunter Biden in compromising positions.
‘It’s very serious that Hunter Biden was paying this woman through his law firm and then writing it off as business tax exemptions,’ said Greene.
Republicans claim that Hunter Biden’s tax issues and overseas business dealings are connected to President Biden and demonstrate rampant corruption. But before the hearing, Raskin predicted that no matter what the GOP did, they wouldn’t demonstrate wrongdoing by the President.
This is why the hearing oozed with 2024 presidential politics. Democrats contend the GOP only held the hearing to target the President.
‘I think (House Oversight Committee) Chairman (James) Comer, R-Ky., might have to fill out a FEC form as an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign based on what’s going on in this hearing,’ proclaimed Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla.
But amid the looming indictment for former President Trump, Republicans said the hearing only underscored two standards of justice in the U.S. One for the Bidens. Another for Mr. Trump.
‘The DoJ, the FBI and the IRS have worked to not only protect the criminal actions of the Biden family, but to continue persecuting President Trump,’ said Rep. William Timmons, R-S.C.
The intensity of that rhetoric will only grow once the feds formally indict the President. The extent of the indicment and what it alleges about Mr. Trump’s actions related to the election and the riot will amplify the invective the GOP hurls at prosecutors and the Biden Administration. And what Democrats say about the former President and Republicans.
This is why some Republicans now want to expunge the two impeachments of former President Trump. However, it’s far from clear that the House would ever consider such a resolution – let alone have the votes to approve such an expungement.
That said, Republicans presented a big platform this week to Mr. Biden’s top 2024 challenger, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Kennedy testified at a hearing about censorship and the weaponization of government.
‘This committee has come to embody weaponization itself,’ said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., characterized RFK Jr. as ‘a living, breathing, false flag operation’ for his views on the pandemic.
Kennedy drew criticism for declaring that COVID-19 was ‘engineered’ in a way to grant immunity to persons of Chinese and European Jewish descent.
However, there’s a House Oversight Committee hearing scheduled next Wednesday on UFO’s. Perhaps that’s the only subject which could upstage the prospective indictment of the former President.