Why The Republicans' Impeachment Invasion Was More Than A Mere Made-For-TV Stunt

A dramatic protest or a desperate attempt to hijack the news cycle? However you look at it, when close to 40 Republicans burst into a closed impeachment hearing on Wednesday, it was an unprecedented moment that some experts warn has pushed the bounds of legitimate partisan attacks. 

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of President Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in Congress, led the group of Republicans as they forced their way into what's known as a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, to disrupt a closed deposition from a Pentagon official in the ongoing presidential impeachment inquiry.

The Republicans said the storming of the SCIF was necessary to expose what they call the secretive Democrat-led hearings that have denied the president transparency and a chance to face his accusers.

But with so much at stake, controlling the message is vital in an impeachment process, particularly since many citizens don't understand exactly what's happening, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"Everyone's political survival, on both sides of the aisle, depends on how this is perceived by the American public," said O'Connell, who points out that Republicans were able to dominate a news cycle with their actions. 

He accuses the Democrats of providing reporters with selective leaks from the hearings to help push down the president's poll numbers and increase support for impeachment, without giving the full story. 

"Most people are a blank slate, and both sides are trying to lay their narrative down. Most people don't know this is happening behind closed doors and they don't follow the ins and outs of politics like folks in the beltway," said O'Connell, who worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

He said the Republican tactics are aimed at a small slice of persuadable independent and swing-state voters. 

He pointed to a recent New York Times/Siena College survey of voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona that suggests only 43 per cent support impeachment and removal of Trump from office. 

"We're basically watching a show unfold that is essentially for the benefit of probably less than 10 per cent of the voters in six states," O'Connell said. 

Read more from Steven D'Souza at CBC News

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