In the 1950s a series of Congressional committees were formed with the ostensible goal to root out communists in the United States. Sen. Joe McCarthy became the face of the effort and its inevitable lighting rod. The genesis of the hearings may be traced to McCarthy delivering a speech to a West Virginia woman’s club, and famously holding a piece of paper in his hand, declaring he had the names of 205 communists. In fact, there was no such list. It was theater.
During that decade several hearings were chaired by McCarthy on the Senate side and others chaired by House members. Each committee threw wide nets to fish for communists in and out of government. Certainly some communists were found and exposed, but for the most part those nets were undoubtedly un-American and in many cases illegal abuses of Congress’s legislative role. The committees were often star chambers with members and chairmen drunk on power.
Six decades later a new Congress, again drunk on power and motived with political animus, formed committees to investigate a president it loathed. Adam Schiff was the face of it. A detestable man was the poster-boy for an impeachment process in which he repeatedly claimed that he had “evidence” of Trump’s guilt. He had none. Willing media gave Schiff multiple forums to repeatedly lie, and he lied without consequence.
Then January 6th happened. Chief Inquisitor Nancy Pelosi green-lit another committee to investigate Trump, once again. For Pelosi, impeachment wasn’t enough; she selected her committee members with Trump-hatred as the chief predicate. Two republicans were allowed on the commission for that reason. The commission is undoubtedly wholly political, and motivated by hatred of a former president but guised as a “contemplated legislative purpose.” In 1955, at the zenith of Congress’s hunt for Reds, the Supreme Court in Quinn v United States opined that the powers of congress are broad and any commissions/committees could commit to investigate matters that could lead to legislation. The J6 committee, like their congressional predecessors in the 1950s, have cast their nets again, but unlike the much maligned McCarthy and House Un-American committees, the J6 committee is far worse in its abuses and has shown not a care for legality or common sense. The J6 committee is like a drift net catching and killing everything in it path. And often, they are doing so in secret.
Americans assume that if the government wants something from you in your home a search warrant will issue after a judge has reviewed and approved it. Or, if the government wants your records through a third party via subpoena, the government will issue that subpoena to a third party and the citizen will get a copy. Only under exigent circumstance (imminent threat) will the person not be notified. Usually, a citizen may then object via judicial review. But the J6 committee it has declared that there is no authority above it, that it is beyond judicial scrutiny. In short, it has the power of an inquisition and its members are inquisitors.
Take the case of Taylor Budowich. He was connected to Trump’s reelection campaign. He held no government position. He submitted to the committee’s questions and produced requested documents. He thought, he had nothing to hide. He was not involved in the J6 riot. He appeared before the committee lawyers and gave testimony. At the same time and without his knowledge the committee had subpoenaed his JP Morgan bank records. He wasn’t informed until it was too late and JP Morgan, with counsel from Loretta Lynch (yes that Loretta Lynch) told Budowich it was producing his documents notwithstanding his objections. The production date was clearly a set-up – December 24th, a date that the court was closed.
JP Morgan produced the documents. Budowich had no chance to stop it, and when he fought it in court it was dismissed as “moot.” It was both “moot” and wrong, but no matter the latter, the committee’s lawyers also argued that Congress has no border or boundary and may do whatever it wants – as long as there is any possibility of “contemplated” legislative intent. The Select Committee’s lawyers have relied on Quinn as giving the committee members plenary power to do whatever they want. In short, they argue that this committee is not constrained by logic, facts, or judicial review because they are not the FBI or law enforcement. Incredibly, its argument has been rubber-stamped by Judges in the District Court of Columbia (DC). In essence – FBI abuses? Hold our beer on abuses.
History has proven McCarthy both right and wrong. There were indeed communists in government, but he was utterly wrong in his methods and tactics. McCarthy was a bully and saw himself, like the J6 committee, as having no limits to power in a quest to destroy lives. In 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, McCarthy’s power affectively ended. McCarthy had again gone off the rails and was ranting. Joseph Welsh said to McCarthy:
“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?.. “Mr. McCarthy,” I will not discuss this further with you… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good.”
The audience applauded.
The J6 committee is, remarkably, far worse at abusing power and witch-hunting than the McCarthy-era committees. It sees itself not just as above the law, but beyond any law or judicial review. It has to stop, and I hope it stops soon. America is not in favor of this star chamber, and I hope soon there is someone who cries: “Have you left no sense of decency?”
“If democracy is in peril,” it is imperiled by lawless members of this Congress – members like Bernie Thompson, Adam Schiff and two willing toadies, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney.