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Anger: House panel investigating virus response is stuffed with anti-Trump militants

By W. James Antle III, The Washington Examiner

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Washington, May 6, 2020 | comments

A new coronavirus oversight panel assembled by House Democrats is being dismissed as the same old attempt to get President Trump, following the failure of impeachment or the Trump-Russia investigation to end his presidency.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently appointed a select committee on the coronavirus, to be chaired by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, a key ally of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The membership was stacked with early advocates of impeaching Trump, including California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. Republicans have so far avoided participation.

“A better name for this committee would be 'Committee of Oligarchs to Unelect the President’ or ‘COUP’ for short,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican.

“People want to see us get to the bottom of [the coronavirus] and deal with the economic fallout, not go after the president,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Freedom Caucus.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy described the effort late last month as “impeachment 2.0.” The California Republican is the one who would decide which GOP lawmakers, if any, would ultimately join Pelosi’s committee.

“One can expect the worst when it comes to House leadership and this president,” said Tom Fitton, president of the right-leaning watchdog group Judicial Watch. “The goal of this select committee is to set up another impeachment of Trump and protect China.”

In addition to Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, the other members are: House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., and Reps. Bill Foster, D-Ill., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Andy Kim, D-N.J. Anti-Trump legal scholar Laurence Tribe praised Raskin as “the best constitutional lawyer in all of Congress” in a Nation article celebrating the Maryland Democrat’s role in the impeachment.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is under heavy scrutiny, and the public's verdict on his response to the crisis is likely to determine whether he is reelected in November. Vast sums of federal money are being spent to cope with both the virus and the economic damage it has caused, requiring congressional oversight.

“But what has happened here that the other committees can’t handle?” asked Fitton.

That’s been McCarthy’s question as well. “I want oversight,” he recently told reporters. "That’s why when we passed [the economic rescue package], we created three new entities of oversight beyond all the oversight. So Appropriations has an oversight committee. We have an Oversight Committee itself. This new special committee is under the Oversight Committee itself; it’s inside the Oversight Committee.”

After the Trump-Russia probe, conducted by several congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller, and the House’s vote to impeach Trump followed by a Senate trial, fatigue has set in. Mueller found no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on fixing the 2016 election. The Senate voted largely along party lines to acquit Trump.

The origins of the Trump-Russia investigation are now being investigated. Serious questions have been raised about the FISA applications used to justify surveillance of individuals in the Trump campaign as well as the way the FBI conducted its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Democrats insist that their new coronavirus committee is not about partisan recriminations and that Republicans who pressed the Benghazi investigation are hypocritical to object. But the criticism has clearly taken a toll. The president declined to make adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci available to testify before the House because of “Trump haters” but cleared him for Senate testimony.

“The Democrats will literally stop at nothing to ensure that Donald Trump is not reelected,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Publicly, they are pretending that China had no real role in the COVID-19 outbreak. Most Democrats on Capitol Hill want to continue the lockdowns indefinitely just in case there is an economic rebound that could benefit Trump. They have even thrown the #MeToo movement under the bus in order to protect Biden’s candidacy.” The last is a reference to Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against the former vice president.

“So the coronavirus commission is a natural extension of that,” O’Connell said. “Despite what Speaker Pelosi says publicly, this panel is designed to do one thing: hurt Trump politically. Every single one of the Democratic panelists voted to impeach Trump, and serial Trump-hater Maxine Waters has a prominent perch, so this has nothing to do with good government.”

Amid flagging coronavirus-approval ratings numbers, Trump has shifted his focus to economic reopening. Democrats protest that he is moving too fast for the public's health.

“I have always thought that the greatest danger facing how the Democrats handle COVID-19 was if they become overly partisan,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “This exercise is obviously overly partisan, and it will backfire on them.”

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