Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
If the GOP wins control of the House of Representatives this November, it will become the “protect Donald Trump from prosecution” caucus. That’s the message we’ve been hearing with increasing frequency from Trump-loving Republicans since August 8, when FBI agents searched the former President’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
The search, pursuant to a court-approved warrant, found more than 100 documents bearing classification markings – including three in desks inside Trump’s office – among other items that should have been returned to the National Archives.
Nevertheless, many in the GOP were incensed by the search. There were immediate calls to “defund the FBI” by some highly vocal GOP lawmakers such as Reps. Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. Republican candidates for Congress from North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and elsewhere echoed that call – all part of an effort to stop the investigation of Trump.
Of course, this is the same GOP that slammed Democrats for using the term “defund the police” after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. But when it comes to the defense of Trump, hypocrisy doesn’t matter.
On Thursday – with little media fanfare – the official Twitter account for GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee took matters a step further: During a floor debate on a measure to provide additional funding to the Department of Justice, the account tweeted: “Why would anyone support a bill that gives $140 MILLION to the same Department of Justice that raided President Trump’s home?”
We have gone from some Republicans wanting to defund the FBI to lawmakers actually seeking to withhold funding to the DOJ, all seemingly to protect their beloved leader.
The GOP has no qualms playing hardball to defund something they don’t approve of. For example, in 2013, Republicans so desperately wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act – President Barack Obama’s landmark health care bill – that they caused a 16-day partial government shutdown.
(That begs the question: If the GOP wins back the House next month, will lawmakers threaten to shut down the government to stop the investigation into Trump’s potential crimes, ranging from his role egging on the crowd that rampaged in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to his possible illegal retention of classified documents?)
And we are not done. Last week, Politico reported that “GOP lawmakers are preparing a buffet of investigations” aimed at the FBI in response to its investigation of Trump. Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico that “we ought to do a deep dive into ensuring that the FBI is focused on organized crime, combating crime, and not witch-hunting Americans.”
“Witch-hunting,” of course, is a reference to any investigation into the GOP’s beloved leader Trump.
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California – a House impeachment manager during Trump’s trial after the January 6 insurrection – recently predicted on my SiriusXM show what he believes will happen if the GOP gains control of the House.
“If they are given power in the next Congress, they will go there, and they will fight exclusively for Donald Trump,” said Swalwell, a former prosecutor. He added that the House “will be become the largest law firm in D.C., but with just one client.”
And that appears to be exactly what the GOP base wants of their elected Republicans.
A CBS poll released September 25 found that 65% of Republicans respondents said that “loyalty” to Trump is “important.” GOP leaders get that, and as a result, they must defend Trump at all costs – including possibly hampering an investigation into Trump’s possible crimes.
That strong pro-Trump sentiment from the GOP base appears to explain why certain Republican lawmakers are talking about impeaching President Joe Biden if they regain control of the House. On September 25, speaking about the likelihood of impeaching Biden if the GOP regains control of the House, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I believe there’s pressure on the Republicans to put that forward and have that vote.”
GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz joined the impeachment chorus last week while appearing on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser who was recently indicted in New York on money laundering and other fraud-related charges. Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Gaetz said that impeaching and investigating Biden would be high on the agenda of a GOP-led House.
“If we don’t engage in impeachment inquiries to get the documents and the testimony and the information we need, then I believe that our voters will feel betrayed and that likely, that could be the biggest win the Democrats could hope for in 2024, when it really matters to investigate them and to hold them accountable,” Gaetz said.
The Florida Republican added that if his party takes control of the chamber “bill-making” would be “a far, far diminished priority.”
In short, despite what some Republican leaders may have wanted the 2022 election to be about, it’s increasingly becoming a referendum on the GOP’s extremism.
From Republicans enacting laws barring women from controlling their own bodies to GOP bans on books to the cruelty of how certain GOP governors have treated Latino immigrants seeking a better life, the election will give voters the opportunity to accept or reject such extreme policies. And now, we have another issue to add to the mix: the GOP’s threats to defund or hamstring law enforcement if it pursues Trump.
Anyone who believes that Trump is above the law should obviously vote Republican in November. But for countless Americans who believe that all of us – including the rich and politically connected like Trump – should all be treated equally under the law, the choice is equally clear.