GOP congressman mocks whistleblower for testifying remotely to protect newborn


House Republicans tried to block a witness from making allegations against Attorney General William Barr.

House Republicans sought to quash damning testimony against Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday by claiming that a witness could not testify remotely.

Aaron Zelinsky, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland, was set to testify about Barr's interference in the prosecution of Roger Stone at a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the politicization of the Department of Justice.

Zelinsky wanted to testify remotely because he has a newborn at home, and the pediatrician recommended he not risk exposing the infant to the virus. Cases of the virus are currently spiking across the country after certain states reopened their economies against expert advice, with more than 121,000 people dying from the virus to date.

But Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) tried to block Zelinsky from testifying remotely, falsely claiming it's not allowed in the House rules.

Johnson also mocked Zelinsky, saying he's "phoning it in" by testifying remotely.

"What provision of the Democrats new House rules allows for a duly subpoenaed witness to appear and provide testimony by video?" Johnson asked House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

Nadler pointed to the rule provision that allows for video testimony, denying Johnson's attempt to block Zelinsky's damning testimony.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led Congress to make multiple changes to procedure. The House, for example, passed an emergency measure allowing members to vote and hold committee hearings remotely.

And since the pandemic began, multiple witnesses have testified remotely for congressional hearings. That includes members of Donald Trump's coronavirus task force such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield.

But Republicans have pushed back against those safety measures, demanding Congress stay in Washington, D.C., even though the virus tore through Capitol Hill in the early days of the pandemic.

Johnson was among those members, demanding in late February — right as the pandemic was beginning to take hold in the United States — that Speaker Nancy Pelosi keep the House in session.

Johnson wasn't the only member to try to disrupt the hearing on Wednesday.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) kept banging on the dais in the hearing room as a witness testified to try to distract and interrupt, leading Democratic lawmakers to call for Gohmert's removal from the room.

Despite the interruptions and attempts to block testimony, the hearing continued, with one witness accusing Barr of "using the DOJ to support the president's campaign."

"The most serious problem here that I'm concerned about is his accelerating recitation of this narrative about, I don't know what you call it, Obamagate, or deep state conspiracy or whatever it is ... he is using the fact that he has his own investigation going on as a basis for supposed facts to assert that these things are true," Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, testified. "No. 1, I don't believe they're true, but more importantly that's a totally improper misuse of the Department of Justice."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.