To hear House Republicans tell it, Democratic leaders are holding a secret and partisan impeachment inquiry that excludes GOP lawmakers from the process. They know that's ridiculous: as USA Today noted yesterday, 47 Republican members on the relevant committees leading the investigation "have access to the closed-door depositions."
In fact, many of the members who barged into a secure congressional hearing room this week, disrupting the process as a press stunt, were fully permitted to be there. They didn't need to storm the gates; they already had an invitation. It was a pointless made-for-the-cameras circus.
But on the show last night, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, raised a related point I hadn't heard before.
MALONEY: It's not enough that [dozens of House Republicans on the relevant committees] have every right to be there for every deposition, that their lawyers get equal time, that their members get equal time. And, of course, the funny part is, is very few of them have taken advantage of that because apparently they don't want to do the actual work.MADDOW: Republican members haven't been sitting in on the depositions even when they're allowed to?MALONEY: Very few.
Hmm. Is that so.
As a rule, we know very few details about the behind-closed-door testimony from recent weeks. There are exceptions when witnesses release opening statements to the public, offering us important insights, and we occasionally hear broad-brush reactions from members who reflect on their general impressions of some depositions.
But Sean Patrick Maloney hinted at something different, without divulging any secretive details. By the New York Democrat's account, dozens of Republicans have the right to be there for witness depositions, but they're choosing not to fully engage in the process -- not because there's a rigged process blocking them, but because some GOP lawmakers apparently don't feel like doing "the actual work."
I haven't seen Maloney's account confirmed by others, but if he's right, it raises a provocative dynamic: congressional Republicans could spend less time whining about the process and more time working as part of the process. They simply have to make a decision to play the role of serious and constructive lawmakers.