After a surprisingly quiet first term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins is finally having his 15 minutes of fame.
And not in a good way.
Last week, the House Oversight and Reform Committee got to question former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and came to the hearing brimming with professed contrition and armed with damning testimony and documents about the man he long protected. Republican supporters of the president contorted themselves to disparage Cohen, even as they largely ignored his admission that he’d engineered the president’s hush payments to Baton Rouge-bred porn star Stormy Daniels, let alone a host of other incriminating allegations about Trump’s business dealings. Much of GOP questioning was patently off-point, even ridiculous.
Even by that standard, Higgins’ questioning made an impression.
With 435 members jostling for attention and influence, it's hard for a freshman congressman to make his mark through the legislative process. …
Higgins, R-Port Barre, a former St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy who touted his law enforcement background to the committee, clearly thought he was on to something when he zeroed in on Cohen’s references to boxes of documents supporting his allegations.
“Earlier you said, ‘I spent last week looking through boxes to find documents’ that would support your accusations. Where are those boxes, good sir? Where are those boxes? Are they in your garage?,” Higgins asked. “And are these not boxes that should have been turned over to investigative authorities during the many criminal investigations you’ve been subject to?”
Cohen pointed out that these were documents that had been seized by the feds in the initial raid of his office, then returned. Yet Higgins kept going.
“Why have they not been turned over to the investigating authorities looking into some of the many criminal activities that you’re allegedly cooperating in? Where are these boxes?” Higgins asked. “Who knows? Where is this treasure of evidence?”
Again, Cohen explained that “the boxes that I am referring to, the boxes that were in my law office when the FBI entered and seized documents.”
You know, I’m starting to think that Higgins isn’t exactly Columbo.
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There was more. Higgins made the improbable assertion that he’d arrested several thousand men, many of whom reminded him of Cohen. Blogger Lamar White, Jr. of the progressive Bayou Brief is chronicling his attempt to fact-check the claim on Twitter. As of Wednesday, he’d confirmed 108.
Higgins also accused Cohen of appearing at the hearing so he could be on television. When Cohen noted that he’d been on TV many times defending Trump, Higgins said that “I didn’t know who you were until today, really.”
There’s your congressional oversight for you.
The social media and late-night comedy reviews were predictably brutal.
Chris Cillizza of CNN declared Higgins the “runaway winner” of the least impressive member competition. NPR’s Domenico Montanaro dug up a little of Higgins’ history in Opelousas, a story from The Independent headlined “Clay Higgins resigned from OPD in 2007 on cusp of major disciplinary measures” for allegedly using unnecessary force and giving false statements.
Jackie Calmes, the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau editor, asked this on Twitter: “Rep. Clay Higgins' questioning of Michael Cohen was so bizarrely bad — like directing the feds to seize Cohen's boxes of records, after Cohen said feds had them & returned them — I went to Google to learn more about this 2nd-term LA Republican. Wow, how did he get elected?”
Having been granted a seat on another major committee, Higgins was back at it this week. Following a Homeland Security Committee hearing in which Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified, Higgins earned befuddled headlines for comparing the migrants arriving at the southern border monthly, many of them families seeking asylum, to the allied troops that stormed the Normandy beaches on D-Day. The numbers may match up, but the specifics obviously don’t.
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Now, one could argue that 3rd District voters knew what they were getting when they chose Higgins in 2016 over the far more conventional Scott Angelle. Angelle quickly joined the Trump administration, where he brought a decidedly industry-friendly approach to regulating offshore oil and gas production. But it was Higgins who cut the Trumpian figure as the blunt-spoken media celebrity (his medium being viral Crime Stoppers videos) with a past checkered enough to disqualify a more traditional pol.
That, to answer Calmes’ query, is how he got elected. The question now is whether embarrassing performances like this give his constituents second thoughts.