House GOP Launders Disinformation Through Its Public Hearings

INSIDE: Kevin McCarthy ... Rudy G ... Ray Epps
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 20: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, and Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen during a break in testimony by Attorney General Merrick Garland at the House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "... UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 20: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, and Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen during a break in testimony by Attorney General Merrick Garland at the House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice," in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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No Good Solutions To This Problem

Back in the day, no one enjoyed a good congressional hearing as much as TPM. The team would get fired up, we’d often have a reporter in the committee room and a cluster of colleagues monitoring via TV. We could rock ‘n’ roll as fast as anyone in sussing out news, calling out bullshit, and bemoaning how repetitive and ineffective the members’ questions often were.

Alas, there is no joy left in Mudville these days.

I want to be clear that committee hearings were never some democratic ideal. They sucked in a lot of ways. But over the past few years congressional hearings have become little disinformation factories, with GOP members using them to launder right-wing conspiracies, personal smears, and Fox News talking points.

Yesterday two separate hearings featuring Biden cabinet officials Merrick Garland and Pete Buttigieg crystalized for me what these hearings have become. They’re no longer about oversight in any meaningful way and they’re not, as the NYT put it today, about scoring partisan political points (that was the old days). Instead, the committee hearings give members the chance to inject the worst of the conspiracizing and crazy talk directly into the public record and into widespread media coverage – and the media still acts as if its powerless to stop participating in it.

I could share with you the inane questions that Garland faced, where his face would contort with confusion over what whack-a-doodle premise was framing the question. Or Buttigieg’s exasperation with having to unpack all the lies and presumptions built into the questions he faced about EVs or his personal travel. But to do so would be to further mainline the disinformation. You get it.

GOP members often used the bulk of their questioning time to make unsupported, false, and misleading statements, culminating with a leading question that was practically rhetorical. There was no way for the witness to clean up the bullshit deposited on the dais, and they were often cut off if they tried.

But I don’t think this is merely a media criticism issue. Biden administration officials aren’t just pinatas in these farce events. They’re props, and they’re being used for nefarious purposes. Because of constitutional checks and balances and the legitimate oversight imperative, it’s not as simple as refusing to attend committee hearings and stiffing congressional subpoenas. But participating in this way on these terms needs a broad rethink because it’s doing real damage to go along with the farce.

McCarthy Locks Arms With Freedom Caucus To Jump Off Cliff

It appears that Speaker McCarthy has decided to push ahead with a continuing resolution that only right-wingers could love. It sets up the possibility of rare Friday and Saturday votes in the House, but more importantly it puts the House in direct conflict with the Senate and White House with no obvious path forward for how to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

To reiterate, this proposed CR is a grab bag of draconian spending cuts and pet messaging vehicles, a Freedom Caucus wish list, if you will. It’s not even clear it will pass the House, let alone go anywhere after that.

Meanwhile, Democrats are reveling in the GOP chaos.

Quote Of The Week

Morning Memo has spared you the Fox News-driven, right-wing outrage cycle around the loosening of the Senate dress code. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who has been shouldering most of the blame for the collapse of civilization the business suit standard, decided to make a one-time deal: “If those jagoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine, then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week.”

Minnesota Disqualification Clause Case Gets Rolling

The Minnesota Supreme Court set a briefing and argument schedule for the case attempting to disqualify Donald Trump from the GOP primary ballot under the 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause. Oral arguments are set for Nov. 2.

One note: The state Supreme Court is largely proceeding as if this will be a legal argument, not a factual one, but it did ask the parties to identify any “genuine issue of material fact that is in dispute.” It’s hard to imagine there not being factual disputes here, so stay tuned for whether the Supreme Court ultimately modifies the schedule to include some sort of evidentiary hearing.

The Impact Of ‘Trump Employee 2’

Harry Litman: What Trump’s assistant told investigators about classified records — and why it’s so damning

Oh Noes!

Rolling Stone: Trump Privately Frets He Could Be Headed to Prison

Cassidy Hutchinson: Giuliani Groped Me On Jan. 6

In her upcoming new book, former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson alleges that Rudy Giuliani groped her backstage at the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse:

I feel his frozen fingers trail up my thigh. He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes look jaundiced. My eyes dart to John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin.

 A Giuliani spokesperson called Hutchinson’s allegation “a disgusting lie.”

Rudy G Defamation Trial Set For Dec. 11

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell set the trial of the defamation case against Rudy Giuliani by Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss for Dec. 11 and ordered the parties to be present in the courtroom for the duration of the trial.


Nora Dannehy, who for a time was the No. 2 in Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation of the Trump-Russia investigators, has publicly confirmed that she resigned from Durham’s team because of:

  1. concerns then-Attorney General Bill Barr was violating DOJ guidelines with his public remarks about the investigation; and
  2. her strong disagreement with the contents of interim report that was considered for release before the 2020 election.

Dannehy is a longtime prosecutor who is now a nominee to the Connecticut Supreme Court. She confirmed her misgivings about the Durham probe during her confirmation hearing yesterday.

Culprit AND Victim

Ray Epps, the man who became the target of a smear campaign by Tucker Carlson and other right-wing provocateurs, who falsely alleged that he was a government agent, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the Jan. 6 attack.

Hunter Biden Must Appear For Arraignment

Morning Memo had a slightly raised eyebrow yesterday about prosecutors opposing Hunter Biden’s request for his arraignment to be via video conference, but the judge who subsequently denied the request noted that outside of COVID circumstances, he had never allowed an arraignment other than in person.

Project Veritas Suspends All Operations

Amid financial ruin and with its founder deposed, the right-wing propaganda outfit Project Veritas suspended all operations Wednesday following another round of layoffs, Mediaite reports.

A Primer On Redistricting And Race

The NYT offers a primer on GOP efforts to discriminate against Black voters: “In Three Southern States, a Legal Battle Over Political Maps”

2024 Ephemera

  • Ron DeSantis’ support collapses in a new poll of the New Hampshire GOP primary.
  • ABC News: If elected president, DeSantis wouldn’t provide federal funding for COVID vaccines.
  • Nate Cohn: Donald Trump is polling about as well as any candidate in the modern history of contested presidential primaries.

More On Property Insurance And Climate Risk

Insurance on some 39 million U.S. homes – roughly one-quarter – is underpriced compared to the climate risk those properties face, according to a new report from First Street Foundation.

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