The Slatest

How Republicans Tried to Manufacture Outrage During Friday’s Impeachment Hearing

Rep. Elise Stefanik questions Marie Yovanovitch at Friday’s hearing.
Pool/Getty Images

When the House Intelligence Committee returned from intermission during its Friday impeachment hearing with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes, tried to yield some of his time to a more junior Republican colleague, Rep. Elise Stefanik. As she began to speak, the Intel chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, gaveled her off.

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“What is the interruption for this time?” Stefanik shot back. Schiff reiterated that she wasn’t recognized.

“I just recognized her,” Nunes said.

Schiff explained to Nunes that under the resolution that the House passed two weeks ago laying out procedures for the impeachment inquiry, the ranking member—like the chairman himself, on his own turn—could only use his 45-minute period for his own questioning or to yield to his staff counsel.

“You’re gagging the young lady from New York?” Nunes said. When Stefanik began to speak again, Schiff had to cut her off again.

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“This is the fifth time you have interrupted members of Congress, duly elected members of Congress,” Stefanik said. She turned off her mic and shook her head.

The exchange was written up in conservative media with headlines like, “Adam Schiff Repeatedly Refuses to Let GOP Congresswoman Talk During Hearing,” or, as Fox News splashed across its website, “GAGGING THE GENTLEWOMAN.” Stefanik issued her own breathless tweet over the incident.

The episode was entirely a stunt, and the incredulity on Nunes and Stefanik’s faces manufactured.

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Both Nunes and Stefanik knew what the impeachment resolution said about the rules of the hearing. The entire committee knows what they are. I heard them complain about this particular rule—that the ranking member would only be able to yield time to counsel during these 45-minute periods, ahead of the usual five-minute rounds for each member that would come immediately afterward—when the resolution was released, and I watched them debate it in the Rules Committee. Wednesday’s hearing had already proceeded under precisely the same rules, with Nunes obediently sharing his time with his committee counsel, Steve Castor, and no one else. But, hey, they produced their content: Cult leader Adam Schiff shuts up a Republican woman. Coming soon to five hours of prime-time Fox News coverage.

Later in the hearing, when each member was allotted five minutes for questioning, Stefanik would spend her share submitting into the record a bunch of HuffPost and Vox articles about Adam Schiff, reciting each headline out loud, before yielding back the remainder.