Merrick Garland laughs as GOP congressman shouts Ukraine conspiracy theories at him in hearing

Merrick Garland laughs as GOP congressman shouts Ukraine conspiracy theories at him in hearing

When Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on the oversight of the Justice Department, he was peppered with plenty of questions sparked from baseless theories — which he had no time to answer.

A clip of Joe Biden speaking at a 2018 Council on Foreign Relations event played, in which he was recounting an exchange he had with Ukrainian officials during his time as vice president. In the clip, Mr Biden could be heard saying, “I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.”

Texas Republican Rep Troy Nehls said, “Mr Attorney General, what you just saw there was Joe Biden in his arrogance and role as the vice president of this country saying, ‘if you don’t fire Shokin, the United States isn’t giving the $1bn loan.” Viktor Shokin is the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine.

“Why would Joe Biden say that?” he asked rhetorically. “Was it policy? Was it our policy at the time? Yes or no?”

Mr Garland then leaned toward the microphone to answer and started to form a sound when the congressman interrupted: “It wasn’t.”

The attorney general then laughed to himself and raised his eyebrows as Mr Nehls continued talking, seemingly without taking a breath.

“I have documents here–” the Texas Republican started before Rep Jerry Nadler, the committee’s top Democrat, interjected, asking, “Is the gentleman ever going to let the gentleman answer questions?”

“I’m on my time. Pipe down,” Rep Nehls replied. Mr Garland laughed at the exchange while the Texas congressman resumed his tirade.

“He’s made significant reforms, Shokin did,” Mr Nehls continued. “And, you know, within a few months after Shokin was fired, they appoint a prosecutor that says, ‘we’re not going to look into Burisma anymore.’”

“Cancel it. Forget it. We’re not looking into Burisma. Boom. Here comes the million dollars,” Mr Nehls said. “Joe Biden threatened the Ukrainian president and the prime minister — everyone can see it — to fire Shokin or the United States wouldn’t give the billion dollars.”

“If that is not quid pro quo, sir, what is? I will tell you what it is and America agrees with me. It’s bribery and it’s impeachable,” Mr Nehls said. He immediately asked Mr Garland, “Are you going to do something about it?”

Without waiting a beat, the Texas Republican said, “I bet you’re not, and that’s why you, sir, also need to be impeached.”

The attorney general again erupted into laughter.

Despite Republicans’ claims that the Mr Shokin was ousted from his post by Mr Biden to help his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, the State Department actually issued a memo for then-Vice President Biden in November 2015, calling for Mr Shokin’s “removal.”

The department described Prosecutor General Shokin as “widely regarded as an obstacle to fighting corruption, if not a source of the problem.”

This exchange might serve as a blueprint for what’s to come with the impeachment inquiry into the president, which will focus on the “president’s involvement in corruption and abuse of public office,” an Oversight Committee spokesperson told NPR.