The most memorable moment of Donald Trump's State of the Union address this week was his remarks condemning congressional investigation into his many scandals. The president warned lawmakers that scrutinizing the controversies would not only be dangerous for the country, it would also prevent any kind of legislative progress over the next two years.
If the idea was to intimidate Democratic lawmakers into submission, Trump's efforts failed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made clear yesterday that she and her members would not be bullied by the president's "all-out threat," and as Rachel noted on the show last night, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee moved forward yesterday with their plans to get answers to pressing questions.
It was against this backdrop that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) endorsed the White House's position.
"Look, we will never give up our oversight role, but this country is too great for a small vision of just investigations," McCarthy said at a press conference. "There are challenges out there that we have to get done. And to be fair, we have been investigating for the last two years."I think it should come to a close. I think the country wants to be able to solve the problems going forward," McCarthy said.
At this point, we could talk about the fact that Congress is more than capable of conducting investigations and legislating at the same time, as it's done many times before. We could also talk about how Kevin McCarthy had a very different perspective on investigating the executive branch when his party was in the majority and his target was the Obama administration.
Indeed, House Republicans were still exploring Hillary Clinton's emails as recently as a few months ago -- despite the fact that the former Secretary of State left office after the 2012 elections -- and the Senate Republican majority still intends to examine the issue this year.
But that's not the funny part.
Rather, what struck me as truly amazing about the House GOP leader's comments yesterday was his assertion that Republicans "have been investigating" Trump-related scandals "for the last two years."
No, seriously, that's what he said. It's on tape, and he didn't appear to be kidding.
To the extent that reality has any bearing in the debate, 2017 and 2018 were not banner years for congressional oversight. On the contrary, they represented a collapse in institutional responsibilities: congressional Republicans chose to look the other way in the face of credible evidence of presidential misconduct. It was the result of raw partisanship and it was a public embarrassment.
I suspect McCarthy, if pressed, would point to the House Intelligence Committee, during Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) tenure as its chairman, producing a report exonerating Trump and his team in the Russia scandal. It was a comically partisan document, widely derided as a pathetic joke.
If the House Republican leader believes that was a compelling example of what a congressional investigation looks like, the coming months will be quite educational for the California congressman.