During a contentious interview on MSNBC Thursday morning, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz defended the move by House Republicans to demand transparency in the impeachment inquiry and hammered the liberal media for using “selective leaks” from Democrats to declare President Trump guilty without ever having seen public testimony from witnesses.
“I actually haven’t heard you say anything since Bill Taylor testified,” anchor Hallie Jackson noted in the 10:00 a.m. ET hour, referring to the former diplomat’s closed-door testimony regarding the Ukraine controversy. She then demanded of Gaetz: “Yes or no, is it okay for any politician to trade military aid for political favors?” The Florida lawmaker replied that it would not be appropriate, before adding: “I also don’t think that’s what the President did.”
Moments later, Jackson insisted: “It appears from the testimony that we have seen reported publicly from the witnesses here that, that is, in fact, what President Trump did.” Gaetz cut her off: “From the selective leaks provided by Adam Schiff that aren’t subject to cross-examination. No, like, see you’re playing the game, here, Hallie.”
Jackson breathlessly fretted: “So do you dispute the facts then?” Gaetz pointed out that the “facts” she was citing were only from one side: “You’re playing the game where they selectively leak stuff that is not subject to cross-examination, rigorous review, check against documents and timelines.”
The Congressman then nailed the political strategy of Democrats, who were relying heavily on the media being their megaphone: “And now they’re trying to do things in secret so we can have interviews like this so that you can cherry pick elements of leaked testimony and then ask me about them when I wasn’t in there, you didn’t see the testimony, and more importantly, we’re unable to see how those statements hold up against cross-examination.”
Refusing to accept criticism of her coverage, Jackson continued: “Did you get a chance to see Bill Taylor’s opening statement that was released?” After Gaetz replied that he did, the host snidely asked: “Do you think he made that all up, those 15 pages?”
Gaetz pushed back: “I would love to have the chance to cross-examine Taylor on those claims or even to observe my colleagues cross-examining Taylor. But this is the new Adam Schiff strategy, leak stuff that is prepared – ” Jackson interrupted and tried to deflect the argument: “Your colleagues can cross-examine him. Your Republican colleagues have been in the room, Congressman.”
He had to again explain to the MSNBC anchor that those cross-examination questions had not been made public, unlike Taylor’s opening statement:
The interview began with Jackson eagerly citing NBC News analysis that House GOP efforts to disrupt one of the secret impeachment hearings on Wednesday meant that Republicans must be “running on empty” and “running out of defenses.” She then teed up a clip of Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier appearing on Morning Joe to trash the incident as “a high school prank by a bunch of 50-year-old white men.”
After Jackson introduced him, Gaetz immediately called out the ridiculously slanted opening of the segment:
The media demand Republicans respond to selectively leaked information from secretive Democrat-run impeachment hearings but become outraged when Republicans object to such an unfair practice.
10:33 AM ET
HALLIE JACKSON: We’re also watching everything else happening at the Capitol, including this morning The New York Times Editorial Board asking this question: “Why did Republicans storm it?” Here’s one possible answer from our NBC News First Read team, because the GOP is “running on empty.” Our political unit – Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann – writing, “If you want to know why House Republicans decided Wednesday to disrupt a deposition into the impeachment inquiry, it’s probably because President Trump and the GOP are running out of defenses.” Here’s Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
JACKIE SPEIER [D-CA]: What happened yesterday was a high school prank by a bunch of 50-year-old white men. The Republicans are whining because the President is whining and frankly I think they did what they did yesterday because the President was whining that they weren’t fighting for him hard enough.
JACKSON: But the President liked the whole thing. Watch this.
STEPHANIE GRISHAM [WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY]: I think they showed full support for the president. He was happy to see it happen. He was very supportive of it, as he should be.
JACKSON: The Republican who led that charge is joining me now, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. He sits on the Judiciary and Armed Services committee and is joining us now from Florida. Congressman, it’s great to have you back on the show, thank you.
REP. MATT GAETZ [R-FL]: Thanks, Hallie. My IFB wasn’t really clear. Did Jackie Speier identify my race and my gender in the context of my activities as a member of Congress yesterday?
JACKSON: I think you heard her soundbite. I want to give you the chance to respond. Go ahead.
GAETZ: Well, no. Did she say it was – that we were a bunch of white men? What does the fact that we are white men have to do with our desire to represent the millions of constituents that we serve? I mean, I was deeply offended by that. Like, I – when Jackie Speier walks in a room, I don’t sit there and say, you know, “a white woman came in” or when someone of a different race or ethnicity comes in. This is the type of identity politics from the left that seems to permeate any substantive or procedural argument that they make and it’s sickening to me that, that is how we would be thought of. The people we serve are diverse and it’s just really kind of sickening.
JACKSON: Let me talk about the substantive piece of it then. Because there are two pieces of this, right? And by the way, Congressman, I want to talk to you about Turkey and Syria, so I’m going to ask you to leave me time for that in this discussion. But I want to start with sort of the process –
GAETZ: Why don’t we start with that? What are your thoughts on Turkey and Syria?
JACKSON: Let me start – well, let me – we teased you – we started on this conversation on the idea that Republicans walked into this secure area of the Capitol yesterday, including some Republicans who could have just gone in and participated as members of those committees as the rules allowed. So what was the point of this? Was this really anything more than a stunt?
GAETZ: The point was to highlight the true due process inequities that are damaging the Congress and damaging the institution of the presidency. I don’t think Democrats have answered the question yet, why is Donald Trump getting less due process than President Clinton got or than Richard Nixon got? So that was our objective. I’m on the Judiciary Committee where Chairman Nadler –
JACKSON: But what do you mean by that? Because some of those members of Congress – but we’re showing a picture, Congressman – I don’t know if you can see our return – of some of the members of Congress walking in, your Republican colleagues, who could be in the room anyway. Forty-seven of them are on these committees, able to go in and participate in depositions, and many of them, in fact, have participated in these depositions.
GAETZ: Right, well, so I’m speaking for myself. I tried to go in last week as a member of the Judiciary Committee and that’s a reasonable thing to do. It was on September 12th that Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “I am hereby launching the impeachment inquiry, the impeachment investigation.” So I think the bizarre element here is that you would exclude members of the committee that launched the impeachment inquiry from the factual development that Adam Schiff is trying to do in secret, aided by selective leaks, and then misrepresentations about the whistleblower, his contact with the whistleblower, and the transcript from President Trump and President Zelensky. So I think that’s why we were trying to get in there, but like, I only speak for myself.
JACKSON: Sure, that’s – okay.
GAETZ: I should be allowed in that room as a member of the Judiciary Committee, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and they wouldn’t let us in. And it begs the question, what are they hiding?
JACKSON: So you’re speaking for yourself, so let’s talk about. You are a member of Judiciary, a member of Armed Services. As you know, none of those committees are the ones conducting these depositions. It’s Intel, it’s Foreign Affairs, it’s Oversight –
GAETZ: I don’t know that. I don’t know that.
JACKSON: No, that is the facts. And the rules –
GAETZ: No, no, I reject the premise. It’s not a fact.
JACKSON: The rules say that those committee members –
GAETZ: Go back and look at the September 12th hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Hallie.
GAETZ: You cannot misstate that as a fact. How can you tell me it’s a fact that my committee is not involved when it was the committee chairman of the Judiciary Committee who launched the investigation?
JACKSON: Congressman, your committee has not subpoenaed these individuals to appear for the deposition. That is just a fact.
GAETZ: That doesn’t mean we’re not involved in the impeachment inquiry.
JACKSON: It is also –
GAETZ: No, you’re shifting ground now, right? First you say we’re not involved, then you say we didn’t issue the subpoenas. Those are two different things. And we are involved because our chairman launched the inquiry. That is a fact.
JACKSON: Sure. I want to let you have your say here but I want to find out why you think the rules do not apply to you as they’re laid out, to you, Congressman Gaetz. Why don’t they apply to you?
GAETZ: There are no rules. Oh, I do think the rules apply to all of us but the rules would typically require the Speaker of the House – I shouldn’t say the rules, the precedent that was applied to President Clinton and President Nixon would necessitate some articulation of the rules so that we have an understanding of what the due process requirements will be. We see Democrats now sacrificing due process on the altar of their hatred for Donald Trump…
JACKSON: I’m not asking about –
GAETZ: …and that should concern all Americans.
JACKSON: I’m not asking about precedent, though. I’m not asking you about precedent, Congressman, I’m asking you about the rules.
GAETZ: Why? But that’s really important.
JACKSON: Why do you think you’re above them?
GAETZ: Precedent informs all the rules.
JACKSON: This is the whole point of why you stormed into the SCIF yesterday.
GAETZ: It’s not – I’m not above the rules, but when the Judiciary Committee Chairman launches the inquiry, when the Speaker of the House won’t adopt rules, then it creates an environment where the Democrats just sort of make it up as they go along. “Let’s kick some committees out, let some committees in.” And it’s all because they want to reshuffle the legislative deck because they’re humiliated that they lost the Russia investigation unequivocally with the American people, Adam Schiff lied to the American people when he said he had more than circumstantial evidence that President Trump was engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia. And so, this is a way to take some folks on the Judiciary Committee, like myself, like Andy Biggs, out of the next hand because we were effective in making the case that Democrats were overstating the facts.
JACKSON: You are very clear, Congressman, you are unhappy with the process. And it should be noted that the Judiciary Committee has not actually subpoenaed these witnesses to be deposed. But I want to ask you…
GAETZ: We launched the inquiry.
JACKSON: …not about the process, but about the substance of this, Congressman, because I actually haven’t heard you say anything since Bill Taylor testified. Yes or no, is it okay for any politician to trade military aid for political favors?
GAETZ: Look, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the Taylor deposition because I wasn’t present for it.
JACKSON: I’m not asking you about that. I’m asking you is it appropriate in any instance? Would you do that?
GAETZ: Yeah, yeah, but you are. The lead into your question was, “I want to talk about Bill Taylor’s deposition.”
JACKSON: Sure. And the question is, do you think it’s appropriate?
GAETZ: And so, when we don’t have the benefit of the cross-examination of the questions asked, I do not believe it would be appropriate for any politician to link military aid to a assistance in a future election. No. And I also don’t think that’s what the President did. I think the President was right…
JACKSON: Why not?
GAETZ: …to follow up on the work of Bill Barr to try to identify the corrupt origins of the Russia investigation. It was a Ukrainian court that ruled that the Ukraine impermissibly interfered in the U.S. election and that is a sufficient basis for the President to ask for cooperation with the Attorney General on that matter.
JACKSON: So a couple of things on that. And I’m going to ask my control room to give me a little bit more time with you, because again, I want to make sure we get to foreign policy. But what you are saying is significant, not about the piece about Ukraine in 2016, because that is something that is not a proven theory. But specifically that you say –
GAETZ: It was a court order in the Ukraine.
JACKSON: Wait, wait, wait! Congressman, I really have a lot to get to with you.
GAETZ: But you just keep blowing through these things like they’re facts, but they’re not.
JACKSON: But we’ve got to stay in the realm of facts here and you just sated a fact, Congressman.
GAETZ: Yeah, but then just stop mischaracterizing stuff. I have to fact check you in real time.
JACKSON: I did not mischaracterize you. I want to be very clear, you just said it would not be appropriate for anybody to trade military aid for help in a future political election. It appears from the testimony that we have seen reported publicly from the witnesses here that, that is, in fact, what President Trump did. Do –
GAETZ: From the selective leaks provided by Adam Schiff that aren’t subject to cross-examination. No, like, see you’re playing the game, here, Hallie.
JACKSON: So do you dispute the facts then?
GAETZ: You’re playing the game where they selectively leak stuff that is not subject to cross-examination…
GAETZ: …rigorous review, check against documents and timelines. And by the way, when they had to do this in the open in the Russia investigation, with Mueller, with Lewandowski, Democrats looked terrible. And now they’re trying to do things in secret so we can have interviews like this so that you can cherry pick elements of leaked testimony and then ask me about them when I wasn’t in there, you didn’t see the testimony, and more importantly, we’re unable to see how those statements hold up against cross-examination. So the substance of his analysis is very difficult if we are not able to have some standardized due process that is predictable and provides clarity.
JACKSON: Did you get a chance to see Bill Taylor’s opening statement that was released?
GAETZ: I did.
JACKSON: Do you think he made that all up, those 15 pages?
GAETZ: I would love to have the chance to cross-examine Taylor on those claims or even to observe my colleagues cross-examining Taylor. But this is the new Adam Schiff strategy, leak stuff that is prepared –
JACKSON: Your colleagues can cross examine him. Your Republican colleagues have been in the room, Congressman.
GAETZ: Right, but I don’t have the benefit of those questions and answers. Right, I’m not disputing that.
JACKSON: You don’t trust your Republicans on these committees?
GAETZ: No, I want to see the consequence of their work, right? Like, it’s not – they put out their opening statement, we engage in cross-examination. You want to ask me about the opening, but I don’t have the benefit of the cross-examination to be able to test the allegations made in the opening statement. And that is all by design. It is not an accident that you and I are here having this interview on terms that are very favorable to the Adam Schiff theory of the case because when John Ratcliffe asked questions that I think poke holes in the allegations that Taylor made, we don’t get the benefit of those. Because you know what? They weren’t leaked and they weren’t in front of the American people and that’s the problem.
JACKSON: I want to get to Turkey and Syria, as I have said repeatedly, so we’re gonna turn to that. And I will just note that Democrats, as Congressman Kildee said earlier on this show, and I know you didn’t get a chance to hear it, they do plan to hold these public hearings in a matter of weeks and I just want to be clear about that for you, for our viewers.
GAETZ: I can’t wait.