James Comer brings the MAGA circus to town: What the House GOP witness list says about impeachment

With a looming government shutdown in days, the GOP has picked the perfect time for their ultimate distraction

Published September 28, 2023 5:30AM (EDT)

Jim Jordan, James Comer and Hunter Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Jim Jordan, James Comer and Hunter Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Move over, Nero. Rome is burning, so why not fiddle around with some extremist, evidence-free attack on a president?

Could House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., have possibly picked a worse time to launch an evidence-free impeachment inquiry than days before a government shutdown? Could any political stunt better illustrate childish partisan prank-making at a time when we could use some adults in the House?

It's all about distraction.

"Don't look over there, where a New York judge just ruled that the Trump Organization is liable for fraud," says the carnival barker. "Looky here, we've got some right-wing opinion bloviators coming to testify against Joe Biden."

"They can speculate about why there might be evidence somewhere down the line. But finding it? That's not their department."

Never mind. There will be soundbites for Fox News and an opportunity for Comer to grift for dollars based on presidential guilt by association with his son.

Need a timely example? 

On Tuesday, House Republicans released emails showing that in July and August 2019, Hunter Biden and his business partner, Devon Archer, received two money wires from China totaling $260,000. The listed address was Joe Biden's home in Delaware. Comer called it "Joe Biden's abuse of office."

Fact: The wires were sent to Hunter Biden, not his dad. There's not a speck of evidence that Joe Biden had anything to do with the wired funds.

Fact: Devon Archer testified under oath in August to Comer's committee that he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden.

Let's stipulate that Hunter Biden and Archer did business in China. Let's even stipulate that Hunter Biden has struggled with addiction and substance abuse and may have shamefully tried to cash in on his last name.

Do we now tar presidents with the brush of an impeachment inquiry before we have a single fact that they profited from any abuse of office?

Republican after Republican has admitted that there is no evidence connecting Joe Biden to the questionable business dealings of his son. 

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On Sept. 17, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, admitted on Fox News that "we don't have the evidence" to support impeaching President Biden. On Sept. 12, it was Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who said Republicans needed clear evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor, not just an assumption there might be one.

The day before, it was Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, telling Forbes he was "not seeing facts or evidence at this point" that would lead to an impeachment inquiry." Last month, Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y., admitted to a Fox News hoost:  "[W]e've never claimed that we have direct money going to POTUS." 

The goal is obvious. With a Trump criminal conviction in the 2024 forecast on charges of trying to overturn the last presidential election, the former president's allies have heeded his demands to start an impeachment inquiry or "fade into OBLIVION." 

Facts be damned. It's the smell of an investigation that counts. 

Remember when we learned, months after Trump's post-election efforts to overturn it, what he had told Jeffrey Rosen, his acting attorney general? "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republicans." 

So Republicans once again trot out Jonathan Turley, the law professor and paid Fox News contributor whose contributions are conspiracy theory and revisionist history. Recall that in 2020, even Fox News host Steve Doocy debunked Turley's promotion of the Dominion voter fraud conspiracy theory, which claimed that ballot-counting equipment in Michigan had switched "thousands of votes" from Trump to Biden.

Last month, Turley claimed on Fox News that in Trump's infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, the then-president was "just making the case for a recount."

You can scour the transcript of that call and never find Trump using the word "recount." You will find Raffensperger telling Trump that Georgia had already done a machine count, a hand tally and a recount. 

Nice try, Professor.

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Comer is also calling forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky. Presumably, that's because last month he described on Fox News some payments from a Russian oligarch to Hunter Biden and Archer, speculating about why they might have used shell companies. He didn't say a single word about any connection between those payments and Joe Biden. 

The third witness is former Trump transition team member Eileen O'Connor. It's not clear what she'll testify about, though if you want to learn about her, watch her on this Federalist Society webcast entitled, "The dictatorship of woke capital.

Or you can check her LinkedIn page, where she recently reposted a video of a line of dark-skinned men marching across parched ground and this accompanying statement:

If this doesn't stop QUICKLY, then the ENTIRE USA will be INVADED with MILLIONS of Military aged men, from MANY different countries who are ready to cause total HAVOC while getting paid $2200 a month in welfare to do so.

The MAGA circus has come to town and partisan 2024 politics has taken over the center ring. 

Meanwhile, the federal government is on course to shut down next week. Businesses large and small will be hurt as government payments to contractors halt. Members of the military and civil servants, many of whom live hand to mouth, will lose their paychecks.

One group of government employees will not: members of the U.S. Congress. On the Republican side, Comer has vowed to keep his inquiry going even if the government shuts down. Fat and happy, House Republicans apparently don't mind engaging in pure theatrics while the curtain falls on ordinary citizens.

It's best to focus our attention where facts matter, like a New York judge's historic ruling Tuesday, based on ample evidence, that Trump is a fraud. The House impeachment inquiry without facts is just another fraud on the people, compliments of the greatest political huckster in American history.

By Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

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