Op-Ed: Plaskett Calls Out ‘Sham’ of a House Subcommittee

Editor’s Note: Following is the transcript of V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett’s opening statement Tuesday at the 10th hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, of which she is the ranking member. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).  

Thank you, very much, and good morning to everyone that is here with us.

Thank you for joining. Two weeks ago, in the same room, we watched as the Republican majority attempted to use the congressional hearing process to intervene in an ongoing Supreme Court case. Republicans here did so by suggesting that they were concerned about how social media companies are bullied by the federal government. In truth, these arguments are operating in the interests of securing an open season. Where Russia and China can destabilize our democracy. It will in the 2024 election by my Republican counterparts causing people to bully social media companies. They want to allow any and all foreign adversaries to dump lies and misinformation on social media in support of a would-be fascist former president, and now you’re back.

Why are we back this time? We’re here because former President Trump is on trial in New York. That’s why we’re here. On Monday and Tuesday of this week his former attorney Michael Cohen delivered devastating testimony implicating former President Trump in a hush money payments scheme.

His former attorney even had audio recordings of Trump talking about those payments. Whether we think the trial in New York is a good case or a bad case, the truth remains that the facts in the case don’t help Donald Trump. We’re here because Donald Trump knows that the evidence against him is plentiful and that the testimony of his literal — literal, as my teenage daughter says — literal partner in crime in this case is harmful to his criminal defense and his political prospects.

It’s not that complicated. The truth hurts. And here’s one: we all know that the former president exacts loyalty from all of his followers, and especially GOP officials and those that work for him. Blind loyalty. And this case is no different. Many of them have hightailed it to New York City to show him that they are with him and standing with Donald Trump. And Trump in turn demands that every Republican official serve him like the incorrigible, degenerate, spoiled brat that he is, and use their positions to aid his criminal defense. And even after the embarrassment of recent hearings today, Donald Trump and his cronies don’t think that the chairman is doing enough.

We’re here today simply because Donald Trump’s sycophants have been taunting the members of this committee on the GOP side and judiciary Republicans for not doing anything tangible to defend Trump against our judicial system. Lackies like Natalie Winters, Trump loyalists and an executive producer for Steve Bannon’s show have been mocking Chairman Jordan’s leadership of the committee openly, as you can see up there [SHOWS CLIP ON SCREEN]. Then the House judiciary tweeted: “Imagine actually believing Michael Cohen.” She retweeted and said, “Imagine actually believing @Judiciary GOP will do anything about it.” Just as one example on Monday.

She put that tweet up, and then Fox’s Maria Bartiromo and Steve Bannon himself have gotten into the act. And here they are. [PANS TO VIDEO CLIP]

We all heard her: “We want action.” And that’s why we’re here today. We’re here at the beck and call of Trump fanatics and talking heads on cable and Internet talk shows in the Magaworld who, like Bartiromo and Bannon have goaded this committee to act because the purpose of this select committee is in fact to be an arm of the Trump campaign and take his orders. And yes, we know you’re mad that things are not going your way.

Republicans are upset because the Justice Department has determined that it must prosecute Donald Trump because the allegations against President Biden amount to nothing both at the Justice Department, and even in this chamber in the House by the very committees Republicans created to investigate President Biden. This committee and Republicans are mad because Robert Hur, himself a Republican political appointee, fully and completely exonerated President Biden while specifically outlining — a Republican appointee — outlining the reasons that Donald Trump deserves to be prosecuted, and President Biden does not.

You’re mad because he had the gumption — I’ll use that word — to tell the truth as to what facts have shown Trump to have done.

The committee wants to allege the fact that Donald Trump repeatedly — and this was a discussion just in the opening statement — talks about Jack Smith and what he did with classified information, but the fact is that Trump didn’t just mishandle classified information. He hid classified information and legally pertinent documents from the FBI and law enforcement. Donald Trump ordered his aides to destroy documents and then repeatedly lied about doing so. Donald Trump even tricked his own lawyers into making false statements on his behalf, potentially implicating those lawyers in his criminal schemes.

That’s why Donald Trump is currently facing 40 charges in federal court in Florida for knowingly mishandling, withholding, hiding, lying, destroying classified documents in a way that put our national security at severe risk. That’s why he’s facing 34 charges in New York State court for falsifying business records and making hush money payments to catch and kill information that would be harmful to his reputation and his presidential campaign. That’s why he’s charged with four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. And that’s why, despite the … attempted character assassination of a prosecutor in Georgia, he’s charged with 10 counts for attempting to intimidate election officials while trying to force them to accept the slate of false electors — again, part of his efforts to overturn an election.

Trump is charged in these cases because there is sufficient evidence to reasonably believe that he committed almost 100 serious crimes in this country. No one should be above the law. So, just for a little legal lesson, as I strongly suspect the defendant may be watching or his minions or others, no, Donald, even a president can’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and get away with it. That’s not gonna’ happen.

To my Republican counterparts in the majority: You claim that you want to fight a weaponized executive branch. You do so by calling in far right witnesses to dispute conspiracies about a deep state or by calling witnesses who have testified under oath that they literally are missing parts of their brain and another who self-identified as a time traveler from Canada.

That, my friends, is the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. To be the “party of law enforcement” and be led by a man currently facing 100 serious charges.

Yeah.

We fail to understand that we are playing White Knights for the most radical fringes of our society, while making frequent references to “Big Brother” while no less than they themselves are the growing embodiment of George Orwell’s “1984.”

Now I know I’ve said it before, and if people don’t know, I’ve been a Republican. I was a Republican appointee when some of my counterparts were still in high school. I served a Republican president, but this is not the Republican Party. This is a cult of personality where Donald Trump exercises totalitarian control. This is a subcommittee that intimidates witnesses who disagree with them, questioning Americans’ loyalty to their country if they don’t support Donald Trump’s agenda. The subcommittee is using its platform to bully American people into believing falsehoods. Falsehoods, which serve little purpose other than to scare everyday Americans, spread confusion and attempt to reelect Donald Trump.

It’s a subcommittee that is taking orders from a disgraced former president. I see members rolling their eyes. They’re all upset. You don’t believe me. Think I’m making up that Trump directs the actions of this select committee.

You think that everyone is not jumping through hoops to please Donald Trump. Follow the facts.

Who was among the select few Donald Trump called on January 6th while encouraging thousands of rioters to overtake the Capitol and steal the election? Individuals from this select committee.

Members here have refused to answer a subpoena related to that call from Trump and the attack on the Capitol. Members of Congress that had rally after rally said, “I’m busting my tail to get Donald Trump reelected. We need to make sure Donald Trump wins; so important that we stay engaged and help Donald Trump get back the White House.”

That’s what members of this committee have said. And it’s our duty to call that bias in hidden agendas of the committee. Such a sham. Solely designed to serve, as we have said before, as the legislative arm of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That’s what this select committee is. This select committee’s efforts are transparent.

And you know what else? They’re expensive. Last hearing we talked about the $20 million this committee has spent already on the witch hunts, and they still have nothing to show for it. Which explains why frantically calling last-minute hearings over and over again to distract from Trump’s criminal trials, just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Anything to try to keep Donald Trump happy.

What a strategy … And what an expensive failure. I’ve tried to use this committee for the good of Americans. I’ve talked to the chairman and two others about examining moments in our nation’s history when the powers of the federal government have been abused. We have reseen reports that the IRS has a real problem of racial bias in its audits. A year ago, the IRS admitted that Black taxpayers are audited at disproportionately higher rates than other racial groups.

Are we talking about that weaponization? Is there a discussion about that? Or the other hearing beyond defending Donald Trump and his election? No. I applaud the DOJ for not giving into political pressure and following the facts where they lead. No one is above the law. No matter how hard this committee tries to make it otherwise.

Thank you and I yield back.