Babies are seized from their mothers’ arms. Photographs show their anguish. News reports describe their cages. A recording captures their wailing and a U.S. border official’s cold mockery. A defiant President Trump falsely blames others for the misery he created.
And Republican lawmakers respond as they often have: They hold another hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
But they have run this play too many times before.
Just 29 seconds into Tuesday’s hearing on the defeated Democratic 2016 presidential nominee and her emails, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, interrupted to point out that something more important needs attention.
“We have seen the pictures of immigrants ripped apart from their parents at the border. These children are not animals,” he said. “They are children who have been forcibly removed from their parents in our name.”
Republicans on the committee tried to silence Nadler with calls of “order!”
Nadler spoke over them: “The United States should be better than this. We should not put children in cages.”
“Regular order!” called out Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Nadler “has been given more time than would have been afforded the other side, had we pulled something like that.”
Ah, so it’s “regular order” to have the umpteenth hearing about a now-private citizen’s emails, but you’re “pulling” a stunt if you talk about the Trump policy under which border guards are reportedly telling parents they are taking children “for a bath” and the children never return.
No, Republicans, your “regular order” is out of order.
As soon as Gowdy had silenced Nadler, two women in the back of the room, with infants in their laps, began to heckle the lawmakers about the inhumanity of Trump’s family separation policy.
Gowdy slammed the gavel to the dais and demanded that the mothers and babies be removed. (At least the Capitol Police had the good sense not to take the babies from the mothers.) “We will be in recess until the Capitol Police restore order!” Gowdy proclaimed.
But “order” remained elusive.
Shortly after the moms and babies were evicted from the room, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, spoke. “Are we really going to sit here, 70 members of the Congress of the United States of America, in 2018, and have a hearing on Hillary Clinton’s emails?”
His voice rising, and at times breaking, Cummings continued: “We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that? This is the United States of America! We now have reports of parents being deported, but the Trump administration is keeping their children here.”
But Republicans would not be distracted from their urgent and singular focus on Clinton’s emails. Unhappy that Clinton wasn’t charged in 2016 for mishandling her emails, they had demanded an investigation into the original investigation of Clinton. That investigation, conducted by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, last week reported misconduct by some officials but “no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.”
Now Republicans, still unsatisfied, are threatening to investigate the investigation of the investigation of Clinton. Senate Republicans hauled Horowitz in Monday, and House Republicans hauled him in Tuesday, to field questions for seven hours from 70 lawmakers on the Judiciary and Oversight committees.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked: “How is it you can say you found no evidence of bias?”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, suggesting the FBI had acted in a “nefarious” manner and had hidden information from Horowitz , said the misconduct was “more than just casting a cloud on the overall investigation,” as Horowitz had concluded.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., alleged that the FBI had given “false information” to Horowitz, and he attempted to unmask people whose identity the FBI protects because they work in counterterrorism.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, demanded the names of special agents and prosecutors involved in the original probe, and he accused Inspector General Horowitz of going soft in his conclusions and offering “a little throwaway” to Democrats. Alleged Gohmert: “Bias is all the way through this, and I’m sorry that you were not able to see that.”
Does it never end? “Why is it that, here and now, in June of 2018, we are still talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails at all?” asked Nadler.
Perhaps because they care more about a scrubbed server than a clean conscience.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.