Gohmert Tries to Drown Out Barr Critic With Incessant Tapping at Hearing

June 25, 2020by Todd J. Gillman The Dallas Morning News (TNS)
On September 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C., Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON — East Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert tried Wednesday to drown out a critic of Attorney General William Barr by tapping his desk during a House hearing — not just once or twice like a judge or chairman calling for order but incessantly and, as Democrats put it, more like a petulant child.

“If there are no rules about when people can talk, there’s no rules about when you can make noise,” Gohmert insisted after Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., asked the chairman to order the sergeant-at-arms to end the disruption by removing him.

The Tyler Republican, one of the more colorful and provocative conservatives in Congress, later denounced the hearing as a “sideshow” — an apt enough description as video of his behavior swept across social media.

“A 2-year old would be put in time-out for such a ridiculous temper tantrum,” said his Democratic opponent, Tyler businessman Hank Gilbert, calling out the eight-term, 66-year-old incumbent. “People in East Texas don’t behave like rabid crazy people like this. It’s an embarrassment.”

The incident took place during a Judiciary Committee hearing into alleged politicization of the Justice Department under Barr.

Gohmert was annoyed as Donald Ayer, a deputy attorney general during the first Bush administration, went over the five minutes allotted for his opening statement, which included calling Barr a liar who regularly “desecrates and undermines” the rule of law, using his vast authority to promote President Donald Trump’s interests by protecting Trump’s cronies.

“He’s way beyond his time,” Gohmert said, trying to interrupt the witness and chastising the chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., for giving Ayer so much latitude.

Committee chairs have broad authority to provide extra time to witnesses, and Nadler tried to shush Gohmert with a few taps of his gavel and calls for order.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, was among the committee members who complained about Gohmert’s behavior.

“It’s a shame we don’t have a serious hearing. It’s just a sideshow and it ought to be called for what it is; and, if we’re concerned about justice, we need to get after the people that created the injustice through the last administration,” Gohmert tweeted afterward. His post included footage of his own comments during the hearing, accusing Democrats of turning a blind eye when the Obama administration weaponized the Justice Department — a longstanding allegation from conservatives — in contrast to Democrats’ current concern about that problem in the Trump era.

Democrats offer much the same critique, accusing Republicans of selective outrage.

Among others, the hearing featured Aaron Zelinksy, once a prosecutor in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and now an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Zelinksy was one of four attorneys who resigned from the team that prosecuted Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone after Barr took the extraordinary step of overruling their recommendation of seven to nine years in prison, based on federal sentencing guidelines. Stone was convicted on five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction.

Barr publicly called his subordinates’ recommendation a “miscarriage of justice,” and Stone eventually received a three-year term.

Barr has denied any abuse of his position and has agreed to testify in late July.

Other allegations the hearing focused on included his handling of the Mueller report and the ouster last weekend of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who has overseen investigations of several Trump associates.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., defended Gohmert’s behavior, warning of more to come in the months ahead if House Democrats persist in holding hearings aimed at tarnishing Trump.

“The Democrats have made a mockery of the rules and minority rights since assuming power in the House,” Biggs tweeted. “Expect a lot more of this as the Democrats ramp up Impeachment 2.0: Presidential Election Manipulation Edition.”

Gohmert has a long history of theatrics in Congress.

His Democratic opponent has tried to make the incumbent’s behavior a campaign issue, though it’s never been clear if voters in the district keep reelecting him because of his antics or in spite of them.

Last October, Gohmert raised eyebrows when he claimed that he knew the identity of the whistleblower who sparked the Trump-Ukraine inquiry that led to Trump’s impeachment, even as Rep. Jim Jordan, top Republican on the oversight committee, insisted repeatedly that only one person knew that person’s identity: Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.

In January, Gohmert demanded public testimony from that alleged whistleblower, despite statutes that protect the identity of those who call attention to wrongdoing in the federal government.

In April, Gohmert advocated the use of a disinfectant powder that supposedly was working wonders in Germany to tamp down COVID-19. But it turned out that no such product existed.

In 2010, he sparred on CNN with anchor Anderson Cooper after claiming that the United States faced an “explosion” of “terror babies” — children born in the U.S. and raised to commit acts of terror, using their American citizenship to slip through any dragnets the government might construct.

Cooper demanded evidence, which Gohmert never provided.

———

©2020 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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