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Remember when conservatives believed no one was above the law?

Dana Milbank on

Kerner said Gosar's allegation -- that Kerner actually supported the IRS' targeting of tea party groups -- was "debunked," "false" and "just a smear." Said the witness: "I'm here because of the tea party victory. I got the job on this committee in '11."

The ferocity of the smear against a fellow conservative was matched only by the irrationality of it. Kerner told lawmakers he had "no choice" but to recommend that Conway be dismissed because of her "clear, repeated and knowing violations of the Hatch Act," which bars federal employees from using their offices for political purposes. Senior officials in the Obama administration had committed only a couple of Hatch Act violations during the entire eight years of the administration, Kerner testified, but Conway alone had already committed 13. Conway has mocked the 80-year-old law, saying, "Let me know when the jail sentence starts." She has refused to testify before the committee and now faces a subpoena.

Her violations weren't close calls. Speaking in her official capacity, she referred to Joe Biden as "Creepy Uncle Joe," the Democrats as a "hot mess," Democratic presidential candidates as "woodchips" and more. Conway's violations "erode the principal foundation of our democratic system -- the rule of law," Kerner wrote.

Such is the pull of partisan tribalism that, given the choice between defending the law and defending a Trump mouthpiece, Republican lawmakers chose the latter. Not that this is surprising. Jordan's campaign spent more than $10,000 at Trump properties last year, and Politico reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are speaking at a Jordan fundraiser next month. (Kushner did similarly for Meadows.) In turn, these lawmakers defend the Trump administration when it breaks the law -- not just in nuanced cases such as special counsel Robert Mueller's report, but even in the case of Conway's stark illegality.

Kerner pointed out the hypocrisy of his former committee allies. Conservatives called for the removal of Kathleen Sebelius, an Obama Cabinet member, for a single Hatch Act violation; they now excuse Conway's 13. But this was lost on his audience.

Rep. Carol Miller (W.Va.) excused Conway by saying she spoke "the truth" when she called Biden "creepy."

Rep. Glenn Grothman (Wis.) proposed that Conway was targeted because she's "a successful conservative woman."


And Jordan mocked Kerner's claim that Conway's actions "'erode the principal foundation of our democratic system.' You really believe that?"

"Yes, I do," Kerner replied, "because it shows that the rule of law only applies to the little people."

Remember when that notion -- that nobody is above the law -- was a conservative belief?


Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group




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