Instead of pursuing the facts, Republicans spouted Trump talking points.
It was easy to forget the Senate hearing on Monday featuring former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was supposed to be about Russia’s meddling in the election.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got things started with a line of questioning that echoed Trump talking points about “unmasking” — a talking point rooted in Trump supporters’ desire to defend the president’s baseless accusation that President Obama wiretapped him.
The “unmasking” claims have been thoroughly debunked. Last month, both Republican and Democratic sources told multiple news outlets that the intelligence community’s conduct with regard to the intelligence reports in question was normal and appropriate.
Republican senators who followed Graham took things even further afield. Instead of asking about Russian meddling, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) grilled Yates about her decision not to enforce President Trump’s Muslim ban — a decision that resulted in Trump firing her on January 30.
Later, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spent time asking Clapper about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Cruz eventually returned to the topic of the Muslim ban, prompting Yates to give him a lesson in constitutional law.
There was more talk about the Muslim ban to come. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) conducted a mansplaining clinic while grilling Yates about the reasoning she used to determine the Muslim ban is unconstitutional — a judgment that has since been vindicated by numerous federal courts that have come to the same conclusion.
Kennedy later expressed confusion about the difference between classified and unclassified information, prompting laughter from the audience.
Cornyn and Cruz reportedly left the hearing before it ended. Neither of them asked a single question about the purported topic of the hearing.
While it makes for good Fox News fodder, the conduct of Republicans during Monday’s hearing only strengthens the case that Congress isn’t equipped to conduct a fair, thorough investigation into Russian meddling. Democratic senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Amy Klobuchar (MN) both called for such an independent investigation during the hearing.