Whitaker Testimony : Democrat’s Attempt At Political Grandstanding Goes Awry
Congressional oversight hearings in America are often highly charged up affairs. While they do have some real value as fact-finding exercises, these hearings also offer politicians a theater for self-aggrandizing performances. It is an established convention that has proven useful for Senators and Representatives from both sides of the political spectrum.
But when a party in power uses these hearings simply as a cover to attack an opposing President, then we have a failure of Democracy. And that is exactly what transpired in the recent House Judiciary Committee hearings set up by the Democrats for the Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Whitaker.
This is the first time that Democrats are in control of the House and its committees in many years. With another potential government shutdown on the cards, one would have thought that these so-called “people’s representatives” would have more important things to do than try to take juvenile pot shots at the President. Unfortunately for America, that did not seem to be the case, even before the hearings got underway.
A Prelude That Hinted At The Democrat’s True Intentions
Ever since their debacle in 2016, the Democrats have had nothing but hostility for President Trump, his White House staff, and all his political appointees. In the case of Matthew Whitaker, this was taken to the next level due to several reasons. His appointment as the temporary replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions meant that he was overseeing the Democrats pet project, aka, the Mueller Investigations.
Whitaker has been quite frank and forthright in the past about his views on the “witch hunt.” To make matters worse for the Democrats, President Trump did a masterstroke by appointing him in an Acting capacity, which meant that there would be no need for any confirmation hearing. This meant that the Democrats lost out on a chance to take pot shots at Whitaker and the President in the Senate.
Despite all this baggage, when the House Democrats requested Whitaker to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee in 2019, he agreed in good faith, upholding established practices and protocol. Despite his willingness to cooperate the Democrats somehow saw the need to arm the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY) with powers of subpoena.
A subpoena is a powerful tool that should be used only as a last resort of coercion when someone refuses to cooperate. In the case of Whitaker, there was no valid reason for the Democrats to go down that path. Understandably, the Acting Attorney General chose to call a spade a spade and threatened to not show up if the Democrats were going to resort to needless strong-arm tactics.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga), the ranking GOP member on the Committee was scathing in his criticism of Nadler’s decision to wield subpoena powers. The standoff was only ended after the Dems decided to retreat from their threats and offer a compromise that was acceptable to Whitaker. This would be far from the last chastening experience for the Democrats in these hearings.
Why The Whitaker Testimony Is Ultimately Pointless
What makes the whole attempt feel so singularly farcical is the fact that Matthew J Whitaker’s tenure as Attorney General is rapidly coming to an end. The confirmation hearings of his long-term successor, William Barr is already going ahead in the Senate. With Barr commanding relatively broad bipartisan support, and the Senate still in Republican hands, his confirmation hearing is as good as done and dusted.
So why are the Democrats so desperate to call Whitaker to testify? It has got everything to do with President Trump, the Mueller investigation, and obstruction of justice. The Democrats were hoping to gain fresh ammunition to attack Trump from the Whitaker testimony.
They just wanted to see if they could dig up some dirt about any attempt on part of the President to shut down the so-called “investigation.” And Whitaker’s honest comments about Mueller before his appointment and his subsequent refusal to recuse himself made him a seemingly soft target. What transpired at the hearing on February 8th proved that the Democrats had seriously underestimated Whitaker.
Top Republican Fires Opening Salvo Before The Hearing
Rep. Doug Collins got the ball rolling with his withering criticism of the entire hearing in his opening statement. He even put forward a motion to adjourn the hearing even before it got started, rightly calling the whole thing an “exercise in character assassination” of Whitaker. Though the motion was voted down by the Democrats, the stage was set for a dramatic session in the House, lasting a full six hours.
What The Democrats Wanted From Whitaker
the Democrat members of the sub-committee displayed extreme hostility and a marked lack of respect during their questioning of Whitaker. The barrage of queries they heaved at the Acting Attorney General can be easily summarised into a handful of points.
The majority of the questions were focused around the Mueller investigation and Whitaker’s ties to the President and the White House. It included the following questions from Jerrod Nadler, Steve Cohen, Zoe Lofgren, and Eric Swalwell:
- Why did Whitaker choose not to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation?
- Did Whitaker reveal any classified info related to the investigation to President Trump or members of his cabinet?
- Did Whitaker try to obstruct or subvert the Mueller investigation in any way?
- Does he consider the Investigation to be a Witchhunt, or would he defend it instead?
- Why did he reveal that the investigation would end soon?
What They Actually Got From Whitaker
Whitaker dashed all Democrat hopes right at the beginning, in his opening statement. He declared two important facts that basically disarmed the Democrats:
- He had not interfered in any way in the Mueller Investigation.
- He will not divulge any details regarding any conversation he may have had with President Trump (invoking the principle of executive privilege)
Throughout the six-hour hearing, Whitaker held on steadfastly to these two basic arguments. For other questions, he either chose to ignore them flatly or go after the interrogators instead. What followed was some colorful and heated encounters between Whitaker and senior Democrats, the highlights of which can be seen on YouTube here.
In the end, Democrats were left with nothing but petty attacks on Whitaker’s qualifications and ability to do his job. The Attorney General was quite combative in many instances, delivering a hostile performance the likes of which has never been seen before in the Congress.
The GOP did a fairly decent job of defending Whitaker and pointing out the blatant abuse of power by the Democrats. They chose to ask more important questions that are actually related to DOJ policy, on a range of issues like drug enforcement, firearms, and criminal justice reforms. Through these questions, the Republicans clearly highlighted the real issues that their opponents were ignoring in their desperation to attack Trump and protect the Mueller investigation.
Verdict: Who Won At The End Of The Day?
Some aspects of Whitaker’s aggressive testimony did come in for some criticism in the media. But on the whole, he walked away unscathed and stronger from the ordeal, even receiving a note of appreciation from the President.
On the other hand, the Democrats gained precious little from the whole thing. All they could muster in the end where hollow words of warning to the outgoing Attorney General to leave the Mueller Investigations be. Remember, this warning is aimed at a guy who is almost certain to be replaced in a week!
Nadler did raise the prospect of future hearings behind closed doors, indicating that his party is not yet ready to give up on Whitaker. Based on how they got owned in public, they will have to try harder to have any shot and success the next time around!