Republicans, in the waning hours of their eight-year reign in the House, are using this precious time to do what they love best: investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The House Oversight Committee had one last item on this year’s calendar — a hearing Thursday on the Clinton Foundation. But it didn’t stop there! Republicans and their witnesses used the hearing to reprise their greatest hits: her email server, Benghazi, George Soros, Sidney Blumenthal, Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, IRS targeting the tea party, Uranium One and a QAnon conspiracy about the Justice Department swooping into Little Rock to seize Clinton documents.
Even the lock-her-up Trump administration had tired of these proceedings. The Justice Department — under the command of Trump loyalist and former hot-tub promoter Matthew Whitaker — refused to testify (leading one witness to suggest the administration had joined the cover up) and the IRS also sent regrets.
Instead, Republicans summoned conspiracy theorists, including “investigators” poised to make money as tipsters if the IRS brings a Clinton Foundation case. But even these witnesses refused to provide documents supporting their dubious claims.
“If you’re not going to share the information with this committee … my patience is running out,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., recently on the short list to be President Trump’s next chief of staff.
“Are you going to prosecute the Clintons?” one witness, John Moynihan, replied. “I don’t think you are.”
“Don’t get cute with me!” Meadows returned.
It was an ignominious end for a Republican majority that spent years in a vain quest to prove the guilt of Clinton and former president Barack Obama. But what they lack in evidence, they have in chutzpah. “It looks like what they’re going to focus on is just more investigations,” incoming House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Monday of the Democrats. “I think America is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda.”
If investigations are the mark of a “small agenda” unbefitting a “great nation,” the Republican majority should have governed Liechtenstein.
On Dec. 7, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee hauled in former FBI director Comey to talk more about Hillary’s emails. They plan to bring in former attorney general Loretta Lynch and bring back Comey for more private interviews about the same. This all follows scores of probes into the Benghazi attacks, Planned Parenthood (each merited a select committee), IRS targeting, Operation Fast and Furious, Clinton’s emails, Solyndra, Obamacare and more. In the first three years of GOP control, the oversight chairman issued more subpoenas (96) than had been issued in the previous eight years.
And now, this coda: On Thursday, unable to get the administration’s cooperation, the oversight committee brought in Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, whose investigations director was banned from Fox News after alleging the “Soros-occupied State Department” funded the migrant caravan. Later came Moynihan, who employs the man behind the false allegation in 2008 that a tape had Michelle Obama disparaging “whitey,” and who in 2013 used doctored audio to declare John Kerry a rapist.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, top Democrat on the subcommittee conducting the oversight hearing, asked why the panel, instead of examining what landed Michael Cohen a prison sentence or New York’s fraud prosecution of the Trump Foundation, was “regifting” its frustrated anti-Clinton efforts. Even the Trump administration, he surmised, has decided “there’s no there there.”
The Republicans couldn’t get their own witnesses to document the allegations they made against the Clintons. “I feel like you’re using us for your own benefit,” Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., told Moynihan.
“Excuse me, sir, you invited us,” Moynihan interjected.
“But you didn’t turn over the documents,” Hice protested.
“Then disinvite us,” Moynihan proposed.
Behind the Republicans on the dais, in a painting, a young Abraham Lincoln looked concerned.
Without new evidence or allegations, Republicans encouraged Fitton to speculate about the Clintons’ guilt. (Q: “Mr. Fitton, would you say that’s a quid pro quo?” A: “It certainly seems that way.”)
“Quid pro quo: Had to look it up,” announced Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa. “It’s Latin for ‘something for something.’” There was laughter in the gallery at the 63-year-old legislator’s new discovery. But Blum did know this: “If it looks like a pig, if it sounds like a pig, and if it smells like a pig, it’s probably a pig. And I think based on what I read today, something smells here.”
Yes, it does. But a House cleaning is coming.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.