Top Republican says congressional investigations don’t have much credibility: ‘I blame Adam Schiff for that’

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is expected to become chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee next year, said he blames Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for what he sees as lowered credibility of congressional probes. 

Schiff chairs the House Intelligence Committee and sits on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — and the California lawmaker also led the first impeachment effort against former President Trump.

“I don’t believe congressional investigations have a whole lot of credibility right now. I blame Adam Schiff for that,” Comer told Punchbowl News in an interview published Wednesday. 

“But it’s also both parties to blame for investigations in the past. But I really want to change that,” said Comer.

The top Republican is among many in the party planning to take advantage of the GOP’s takeover of the House majority to investigate topics like the origins of COVID-19, the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, the country’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan and President Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the family’s business dealings.

Comer is gearing up to take leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee from outgoing Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has been leading the panel in a probe into Trump’s mishandling of presidential records.

Comer told Punchbowl News that he won’t “abuse the subpoena ability” when he assumes the chair position, and that the panel will be “very selective” in issuing subpoenas.

 “So when you get a specific subpoena from Oversight when I’m chairman, then it’s going to mean something,” Comer said.

Democratic strategists launch ‘war room’ project to investigate and unmask GOP House inquisitors

If Hunter Biden’s alleged substance abuse issues, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s COVID-19 strategy and alleged relationship to China, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ immigration policies are fair game for exploration in House Republicans’ planned, upcoming Benghazi-style show trials, then it only seems fair that Rep. Jim Jordan’s alleged enabling of sexual predators, the ties of Rep. Paul Gosar and others in the Republican Party to virulent white supremacist organizations, even Rep. Matt Gaetz’s alleged afterparty cocaine antics get similar scrutiny. After all, the American people certainly deserve to be fully apprised of the character of the people most responsible for these hearings in order to best make an informed judgment.

Although they won’t have the ability to issue the subpoenas themselves, there is nothing stopping Democrats or their agents from researching public records or conducting detailed interviews with folks who have first-hand knowledge of the sterling character qualities of these House Republicans, all of whom appear so intent on highlighting their own moral authority in these hearings. It might also prove useful to understand exactly who funds their campaigns to satisfy American citizens that there are no hidden interests motivating them in their official duties.

Others appear to agree. As reported by Heidi Przybyla and Jordain Carney for POLITICO, Democratic strategists have launched a “war room” that’s dedicated to exploring, highlighting and publicizing the character and connections of the very Republican inquisitors (and their colleagues) who will be inflicting this investigation-o-rama upon the American people.

RELATED STORY: GOP holds first press conference after midterms and says it only wants to talk about Hunter Biden's laptop

As Przybala and Carney write:

The newly relaunched Congressional Integrity Project initiative, details of which were shared first with POLITICO, will include rapid response teams, investigative researchers, pollsters and eventually a paid media campaign to put congressional Republicans “squarely on the defense,” founder Kyle Herrig said in an interview.

The “multimillion dollar” effort is designed to create an effective counter-narrative that will be impossible for anyone to ignore (except, perhaps, Fox News).

It’s designed to serve as the party’s “leading war room” to push back on House Republican investigations, Herrig said in an interview. He added that the project would “investigate the investigators, expose their political motivations and the monied special interests supporting their work, and hold them accountable for ignoring the urgent priorities of all Americans in order to smear Joe Biden and do the political bidding of Trump and MAGA Republicans.”

The project (which, according to POLITICO, has been cleared by Democratic House leadership) will “immediately” target the chairpersons and lead participants of these investigations. That laudable goal notwithstanding, there appears to be no reason for this project to limit itself to merely unmasking Republicans on the Oversight Committees alone. Hunter Biden, for example, is a private citizen whose name Republicans (like Gaetz, for example) have seen fit to drag through the mud at every turn.

RELATED STORY: Let's look at the case against Hunter Biden and his laptop: A photo essay

Likewise, Fauci holds no elected post in government. If Republicans intend to score their political points at the expense of intruding on these people’s privacy and personal lives—or cast unfounded aspersions on their alleged motivations—they would appear to have forfeited the right to protest any counter-investigations and publication of the foibles of their own colleagues and associates: 

As the old saying goes, “What’s good for the goose …” 

One of the leaders of the project, Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse, emphasized to POLITICO that their group will employ “every tactic available” in order to ensure that we Americans, forced to witness these spectacles, will have a clear picture of these Republican interrogators and their motivations. The project will also employ the services of former Obama administration officials, as well as senior aides and advisers from President Joe Biden’s transition team and former Senate office.

As Przybyla and Carney explain:

The Congressional Integrity Project is also aiming to raise funds for a paid media campaign, including dedicated websites, digital ads, mobile billboards, newspaper ads and, occasionally, TV ad buys. Its public opinion research will be shared with like-minded organizations and congressional allies to contrast GOP investigations with issues the American public cares most about, project leaders said.

Their overall goal is to ensure that the Republicans’ planned inquisition prompts a voter backlash from Americans dismayed at these pointless, staged fiascos, and specifically seeks to ensure there is no repeat of Republicans’ colossally wasteful, two-year “Benghazi” debacle.

So, by all means, let the games begin. No doubt there are some families of Ohio State alumni, at least, who might express an interest. 

As Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock prepares for his Dec. 6 Senate runoff against Republican Herschel Walker, Warnock and the people of Georgia need all the help we can give. Click here to donate $3 or more to Team Warnock today!

Incoming House Republican: GOP shouldn’t launch probes in first six months

Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) said Republicans should not launch divisive investigations for at least six months and should instead focus efforts on improving the lives of Americans who voted them into office.

Fox News anchor Sandra Smith asked Santos about a long list of probes being proposed by some in the GOP, from the origins of COVID-19 to Big Tech censorship, the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, Hunter Biden and the southern border crisis.

"If parts of our party want to go into these investigations, that's their prerogative," Santos said. "I don't want to waste my time in Washington engaging in hyperpartisan issues. I want to come here to deliver results."

The incoming lawmaker said Republicans for the first six months should concentrate on making America energy independent, reducing crime in metropolitan areas and supporting education.

The GOP, which is expected to take over the House but with a narrow majority, has considered a range of inquiries and even impeachment proceedings against Biden Cabinet officials.

Santos flipped a blue district that President Biden won in 2020, beating Democrat Robert Zimmerman in New York's 3rd Congressional District.

"Look, I'm not saying they're a waste of time," Santos said of the probes. "I'm just saying that they shouldn't hold priority over the issues at hand which are affecting every American's day-to-day life."

New footage raises questions about Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s death on January 6

As investigations into the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection continue, federal authorities have not only arrested multiple individuals in connection to the violence but narrowed down a few suspects connected to the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick was one of five individuals who died during the riot; currently investigations into who is responsible for his death continue. The 13-year police veteran died a day after the riots after collapsing in his office after he was "injured while physically engaging with protestors," Capitol Police said in a statement last month. While initial reports indicated 42-year-old Sicknick was killed after being struck with a fire extinguisher, those reports were proven untrue.

According to CNN, new video evidence has aided investigators in their search and raised hopes that charges may be brought in the case soon. Sicknick’s death has been a complicated case where investigators have struggled to determine what moment he suffered his fatal injuries; while initial reports indicated he was struck by a fire extinguisher, no evidence of blunt force trauma was found. The new video footage suggests that a suspect may have sprayed an irritant, such as bear spray, that caused Sicknick to suffer a fatal reaction, an official said Wednesday.  

Audio clips played during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial depicted officers screaming during the Jan. 6 attacks that some mob members were spraying them with bear spray. Supporting these claims, Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters Wednesday that Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman had also shared that "he had to breathe a lot of bear spray and tear gas and that he was nauseated.” Other footage of officers being beaten by rioters were also shared to determine Trump’s role in the violence. According to court documents, more than 100 officers were injured during the riots and at least 15 officers required hospitalization.

The evening of the insurrection, Sicknick told his elder brother that while he had been pepper-sprayed at least twice, he felt fine, ProPublica reported. His family was then alerted the next day that he had suffered a stroke in his office.

To honor his bravery and commitment to protecting members of the Capitol Sicknick received one of the highest tributes that Congress can offer a civilian—he was laid in honor in the Capitol building. “That Brian and his family were made to pay such a high price for his devoted service in the Capitol was a senseless tragedy, one that we are still grappling with,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the congressional tribute for Sicknick.

Sicknick’s death is heartbreaking. The actions that occurred the night of the insurrection were a sad reminder as to how backward the United States had become under the Trump administration. Fueled by hate and violence for years, Trump supporters have continued to hurt others without any regret. To date, more than 50 cases of violence have directly cited Trump as the influence and reason for the crime. Trump supporters have not only directed violence toward those who disagree with them but threatened a large number of public servants amid the pandemic. Additionally, hate crimes have seen a significant increase since Trump’s presidential term.

Trump and his minions must pay for their actions and justice must be served. As investigations continue, we can only hope that not only Sicknick’s murderer but all others involved in the Capitol riots are brought to justice. This new evidence raises questions on what actually happened on Jan. 6 and sheds light on what other crimes may have been committed.

At this time the new video the FBI is reviewing and an autopsy report have not been made public and Sicknick’s death has not yet been declared a homicide. In addition to federal authorities, his death is being investigated by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's homicide branch, and Capitol Police.

Impeachment trial, investigations: How Congress is addressing the Jan 6 insurrection

Former President Donald Trump, charged with inciting the January 6 insurrection, is facing his second impeachment trial amid ongoing investigations by Congressional committees and federal agencies into the events that led to the attack. New York University School of Law Professor and Co-Editor-in-chief of Just Security Ryan Goodman joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.