Opinion: Can bowing to Trump get worse?

It was so predictable. Speaker “MAGA Mike” Johnson belatedly did the right thing in April by allowing the House to approve aid to Ukraine despite opposition from most Republicans. Even former Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him “brave.” Since then, however, he has been lenient toward his right-wing colleagues in the House of Representatives and Donald Trump to offset what he perceives as heresy.

Two of Johnson's recent actions show how low he will go in bowing to the disgraced former president and his MAGA disciples in the House, and how hypocritical they all are.

opinion columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical look to the national political scene. He has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

On Friday, Johnson Announced that the House would go to federal court to file charges against Atty. General Merrick Garland for contempt of Congress. Two days earlier, the House had voted along party lines to seek the Justice Department's prosecution of its boss. The Department refused and within hours Johnson said the House would proceed on its own.

At stake is Garland's refusal to hand over to Republicans an audio recording they subpoenaed of President Biden's interview last fall in the investigation of his previous handling of classified documents, which did not result in criminal charges. Garland provided other materials that the House requested, including a transcript of the interview, but Biden asserted executive privilege over the audio.

For all the Republicans' high-sounding posturing about respecting Congress, you know the real reason for demanding the recording: They believe the audio should include parts they can exploit to embarrass Biden. They've coveted him ever since the Republican special counsel interviewed the president unnecessarily. alluded to in his report to Biden's advanced age, his poor memory and his “diminished faculties.”

Johnson, in his message, condemned the refusal to prosecute Garland as “another example of the two-tier system of justice presented to us by the Biden Administration.”

Only a shameless Trump sycophant would continue to spout that “two-tier” nonsense after the Justice Department decision. successful processing of Biden's son, with a second federal trial ahead in September. And House Republicans added another absurd lie: Hunter Biden's conviction was a feint to distract us from the real crimes of the father, which House Republicans have been unable to identify despite more than a year of investigations.

The real double standard is that of the Republicans: They want Garland to be prosecuted for only partially complying with a congressional subpoena, but among their ranks are members who completely disregarded the House committee's January 6 subpoenas to testify about their efforts to help Trump overturn the 2020 election. They even turned their challenge into fundraising pitches: “I HAVE BEEN QUOTED” was the Trumpian headline above an email.

That boast came from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, now chairman of the Judiciary Committee that recommended Garland be found guilty of contempt. Prominent among those who defied the subpoenas was Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who begged Trump after the election to appoint an acting attorney general to declare the election fraudulent. Perry's phone, seized by FBI agents, was filled with incriminating calls and messages (“January 6 is 11 days away… We have to go!” he said. sent a text message the White House at one point). And none other than the highest-ranking official inside the building that was attacked, then-President Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield (“My Kevin” to Trump), also ignored a subpoena for him to say what he knew.

The January 6 committee, in its report, justified his extraordinary subpoenas to House members by describing “the centrality of their efforts” in helping Trump remain illegally in power. For example, in December 2020, Trump named Jordan and Perry when he urged resistant Justice Department officials to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican members of Congress.”

The contempt for Congress belongs to all of them, not Garland.

Perry also figures in another recent tactic by Johnson to flatter Trump. At the request of the former president, the speaker quietly appointed Perry and Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas to the House Intelligence Committee, one of the most sensitive and least partisan panels in Congress, privy to classified information that most other lawmakers are not. come. It's a position that neither Perry nor Jackson deserve, which is why their appointments reportedly outraged the committee's chairman, Michael R. Turner of Ohio, among other more moderate House Republicans. Turner told CBS' “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the speaker promised to intervene in case of “inappropriate” behavior on the part of the two.

Why the concern? As former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney's fellow Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, put it in a recent podcast, Perry had been the House member the committee most wanted to force to testify, because he was considered “basically the driving force behind January 6” among members of Congress.

As for Jackson, he complimented Trump so much when he was White House physician that Trump chose him as secretary of Veterans Affairs, a nomination that imploded amid accusations that Jackson drank, abused staff, and inappropriately dispensed drugs (nickname: “Candy Man”). Demoted to captain after a pentagon investigationhe still called himself rear admiral on his congressional website until the Washington Post revealed his deception in March.

A former Intelligence Committee lawyer, a Republican, said Perry and Jackson “could not obtain a security clearance if they had entered through any other door.” But Johnson has put them in a position to know the nation's deepest secrets just to please Trump, who is accused of taking and sharing classified documents.

That only makes sense Yeah His motivation is not the interests of the country but those of the former and perhaps future president. Which describes the Speaker of the House pretty well.


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