Democrats brought the fire. The witness brought the facts. Republicans just face-planted — over and over again.
House Republicans spent the entire day Thursday trying to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation with a sham congressional hearing, but ended up being humiliated by Democrats, and giving their witness a brilliant spotlight in which to deliver a searing takedown of their anti-FBI conspiracies.
For months, Trump and his Republican allies have been trying to undermine Mueller's investigation by alleging that text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and another agent prove that Mueller's investigation is biased against Trump.
Despite an inspector general's report that concluded the Russia investigation was not biased, Republicans hoped to press that point Thursday by grilling Agent Strzok in a public hearing before a joint session of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees.
Instead, the exercise blew up in their faces, as Democrats frequently turned the tables by using parliamentary procedures and other maneuvers to make devastating points about the Russia investigation, and Strzok himself delivered a knockout punch to GOP attack dog Rep. Trey Gowdy.
After several minutes of badgering by Gowdy, Strzok demanded time to explain the political opinion he voiced about Trump in the controversial text messages.
"It was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero," Strzok said, "and my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, [was] that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States."
To applause from the chamber, Strzok added that the GOP's baseless suggestion of bias "deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive."
But Strzok wasn't the only one who came prepared. Democrats used the hearing to highlight the hypocrisy, dishonesty, and dysfunction that has come to define the Republican party.
During his opening remarks, ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings delivered a damning summary of the Mueller investigation's results to date, and had staffers stand behind him displaying photos of the five Trump campaign figures who have pleaded guilty to crimes already.
At another point, Democrats used parliamentary maneuvers to push for a subpoena of former Trump senior adviser and current white supremacist Steve Bannon, who refused to answer questions when he testified before Congress in January.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee also used the hearing to spotlight the shady characters that made up the Trump campaign, holding up a copy of indicted former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort's recently-released mugshot while questioning Strzok.
In a brilliant tactical move, Democrats turned the tables on their colleagues from across the aisle and demanded the release of closed-door testimony from Strzok that Republicans have selectively leaked to the media.
Meanwhile, Republicans repeatedly threatened to hold Strzok in contempt for refusing to compromise an ongoing investigation, which prompted conservative pundit Bill Kristol to tweet that "House Republicans are increasingly behaving like legislators from the ruling party in a banana republic."
Republicans thought they could attack Mueller's investigation at will, but instead ended up highlighting their own dysfunction and giving Democrats a golden opportunity to show just how important the Russia investigation really is.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.