In House exchange, U.S. Rep. James Comer reveals true strategy of Republican party

·3 min read

A recent exchange on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives between Republican James Comer of Kentucky and Democrat Adam Schiff of California reveals just how much the Big Lie continues to drive Republican strategy in protecting former president Donald J. Trump from the political exposure and criminal prosecution that the disgraced ex-president so richly deserves.

Comer rose to complain about Schiff’s habit of interjecting accusations of collusion between ex-president Trump and the Russians, without providing any evidence of such collusion. Where, he demanded, is the evidence for this collusion you can’t stop talking about? It was as though Comer had never read the Mueller Report which had provided chapter and verse of on-going collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. Nor the Senate Intelligence Committee Report which amplified the instances of collusion. Comer, like the vast majority of House Republicans, needed nothing more than Attorney General William Barr’s false exoneration of Trump’s interactions with Russians, to conclude, with Trump, that any investigations into the issue were witch hunts.

Schiff was having none of Comer’s subdued gaslighting. The Californian removed his mask and pointed out, as one major piece of evidence, how Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, secretly provided a Russian intelligence agent with private polling of battleground states as well as the campaign’s strategy for winning those states. Was Comer aware of that evidence, Schiff wanted to know? Comer replied that he was aware of “all the bits of information that you have tried to peddle here over the past year,” implying that it was all snake oil beneath Comer’s consideration. Schiff was not done. Was Comer aware, Schiff pressed on, of Russia’s disinformation campaign on social media to help Trump win? Comer responded that he had recently learned about Russia’s attempts to interfere in Ukraine’s election. How that negated Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign he didn’t say. Schiff was not about letting that non-sequitur end the exchange. Did Comer want further illustrations of collusion? “Shall I go on,” Schiff persisted. By this point, Comer was perhaps wishing that he had kept his position as state Agricultural Commissioner.

Why had Comer so exposed himself to Schiff’s put-down? Has he been oblivious to Schiff’s tour-de force performances in chairing the Intelligence Committee and acting as an impeachment manager? Is this some desperate attempt to erode Schiff’s credibility, out of fear that he and his fellow Select Committee members will be exposing Comer as one of the congresspersons who were collaborating with the White House in order to subvert Biden’s election? Unlikely, since Comer did not vote to challenge the results from either Arizona or Pennsylvania on January 6 (unlike Kentucky’s senior representative, Hal Rogers, who has that dishonorable distinction). No, Comer’s rash challenge to Schiff would seem to be part of the Republican strategy that has evolved in the wake of January 6: to discredit the Select Committee’s investigation into the events of January 6 as a means of protecting Trump and all those involved in his desperate attempts to cling to power. By pretending that Schiff and others are making baseless accusations about Trump-Russian collusion, Comer casts serious doubt on the motives as well as the evidence of the committee, no matter how damning the evidence that they turn up about the White House’s orchestration of January 6 and about the level of congressional collaboration. If the public can be convinced that the committee is really on a mission to destroy Trump and his allies, then they will likely be more inclined to ignore the proceedings of the committee and much more their findings.

This is the patriotism that Comer, like so much of the Republican Party, is exhibiting in their crusade to sabotage the investigation which, he well knows, could fatally damage not only Trump but the Republican Party. Rather the whole nation perish than the party which Donald Trump has so made his own.

Robert Emmett Curran is a Professor of History Emeritus at Georgetown University.

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