A hearing led by Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, briefly descended into chaos Thursday after two witnesses were dismissed without being cross-examined by the panel, leading Representative Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, to spar with Jordan and call the gathering a “mockery and a disgrace.”
Members of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a subpanel of the House Judiciary Committee, was meeting to hear testimony about the Biden administration’s communication with social media companies about policing content related to the coronavirus pandemic on their platforms.
Jordan chairs the full committee and the subcommittee, which was formed as part of the Republican majority’s efforts to scrutinize the Biden administration. It has generated concern among some Democrats who worry it will be used to showcase conspiracy theories and advance an extreme agenda.
On Thursday, the panel was hearing from Missouri Senator Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, both Republicans. But when they were dismissed shortly after delivering their opening statements, Lynch expressed concern that the panel did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, saying they had made “outlandish allegations.”
Both Landry and Schmitt alleged that the Biden administration led a “censorship operation” by coercing social media companies to “suppress viewpoints with which they disagree,” including information pertaining to the pandemic and related policy measures, according to the testimony.
“These two witnesses have just presented evidence that I think in part is false. And I would like the opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses,” Lynch said before Jordan cut him off.
Lynch and Jordan then began sparring over the ability to cross-examine witnesses, with their respective colleagues coming to their defense. Members began talking over one another.
“You’re claiming my time,” Lynch said, his voice rising, when Representative Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, began speaking after Jordan granted a point of order because he claimed Lynch was “making a speech.”
“I was recognized!” Lynch said.
Johnson said that Democrats had recently allowed witnesses to leave the room without being cross-examined, including Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, pointed out that Landry is “not a member of Congress [and] is not entitled to an extension of courtesy” given to current and some former members of Congress.
The back-and-forth continued for several minutes, when Lynch said if the panel would not have the chance to cross-examine witnesses that the testimony of Landry and Schmitt should be struck.
“You mean you want to censor it?” Jordan retorted as some in the room laughed.
“I want to strike it. If we aren’t able to probe the veracity of their statements, the truthfulness of their statements ... ,” Lynch responded before he was interrupted by Jordan.
“They’re not here,” Lynch continued. “They have scurried away with your complicity!”
Jordan and Lynch proceeded to yell over one another.
“If allowing them to leave is not weaponization, I don’t know what is,” Representative Linda Sanchez, a Democrat from California, added in agreement.
Lynch then moved to adjourn the hearing.
“This is a mockery and a disgrace. And it’s shameful,” he shouted. “There’s a motion on the floor and it is not debatable. If you don’t know the rules of the committee, then talk to your parliamentarian.”
The subcommittee is expected to probe claims that federal agencies such as the Department of Justice are biased against conservatives. Republican members have spoken of a lengthy list of concerns they plan on investigating, including those pertaining to surveillance powers.
Watch the exchange here:
Parliamentary chaos breaks out in House Judiciary hearing after GOP majority dismisses witnesses without cross-examination:— The Recount (@therecount) March 30, 2023
Chair Jim Jordan: “You’ll be given your 5 minutes here.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): “They’re not here! ... They have scurried away with your complicity!” pic.twitter.com/nbImR6JOXo
.@HouseJudiciary Democrats ask why two witnesses were excused after their opening testimony.@RepStephenLynch to Chair @Jim_Jordan: "They have scurried away with your complicity...that's pretty disgraceful." pic.twitter.com/4kzPtAEgu7— CSPAN (@cspan) March 30, 2023
False. McCarthy decided to pull all of his appointees to the Jan. 6 committee, including three Pelosi accepted, after Pelosi rejected two others (including Jordan) and invited him to choose a different two. Even then, the Democrats appointed two Republicans, Cheney and Kinzinger. https://t.co/M5L1LLra0N— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 30, 2023
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.