“They don’t agree with the result with the 2016 election,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said on the floor Thursday after the chamber voted largely along party lines to formalize the inquiry.
“This is Soviet-style rules,” he said, complaining about the closed-door process thus far. “Maybe in the Soviet Union you do something like this.”
It’s unclear how exactly impeaching a president, which is a power afforded solely to the House by the U.S. Constitution, compares to the single-party socialist republic of the former Soviet Union, with its history of violent changes in leadership and political purges.
The House on Thursday voted 232-196 to approve a resolution setting ground rules for public impeachment hearings, procedures for the president and his counsel to respond to evidence in committee, and guidelines on how Republicans can call their own witnesses. The impeachment vote was something Republicans have been demanding ever since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw her weight behind the effort over a month ago.
But Republicans say they’re still not satisfied. They argue that Democrats have irreversibly tainted the inquiry by beginning with closed-door hearings where Republicans have been unable to call their own witnesses. In the House, that has now led to wild accusations of Stalinism and even something about cults.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are approaching the impeachment inquiry in a more measured tone. If the House ultimately does vote to impeach, they’ll have to act as jurors and therefore feel more responsibility to appear sensible and willing to hear out the facts.
“I think any of that kind of hot phrase ― I’m never going to use anything like that,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said Thursday when asked about the “Soviet-style” description. But he, too, whacked House Democrats on transparency, accusing them of seeking to drive up public opinion in support of impeaching Trump.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) agreed.
“I’ll let people utilize their own terms. It has just simply not been a fair process,” he said.
Asked about the talk of Soviet Russia in the House, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) made a different historical argument, vaguely referring to past impeachment inquiries.
“It’s just anomalous historically,” Hawley said. “The Democrats have to imagine that such significant departures from what has at least been historical practice in this century is going to naturally raise a lot of eyebrows.”
Over the past several weeks, Democrats have obtained damning testimony from Trump administration officials regarding the president’s attempt to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Joe Biden, one of his top rivals in the 2020 election, in exchange for unfreezing foreign aid to the country that was already approved by Congress.
Few Republicans have actually addressed the substance of Trump’s efforts to get dirt on a political rival from a foreign government, choosing instead to argue about the process.