The day the House of Representatives impeached President Trump will stand out in the history of the chamber. Even on this monumental day, however, something entirely ordinary happened: Rep. Louie Gohmert came to the dais. And he was angry.
The Texas conservative is well-known among his colleagues for his liberal use of lawmakers’ privilege to deliver speeches on the House floor before or after legislative business. Gohmert, who has been in office since 2005, has delivered hundreds of these speeches, covering topics from the misuse of foreign aid, Obamacare’s many failings, the need for a border wall (way before Trump made it mainstream), the deficit, the tyranny of non-incandescent light bulbs, the government not doing enough (regarding the BP oil spill in 2010) and the government doing too much (pretty much everywhere else).
Several hours into Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings, Gohmert approached the mic, his volume pre-dialed to 11 and his takes set to hot. Impeachment, he thundered, was meant to “stop the investigation” by American and Ukrainian officials into “the corruption of Ukrainian interference into the U.S. election in 2016.”
“One thing hasn’t changed,” Gohmert said. “The intent to impeach this president. It’s always been there… This country’s end is now in sight. I hope I don’t live to see it. This is an outrage.”
As he stepped away from the dais, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY)—who was running floor debate—admonished his colleague from East Texas for raising the Ukrainian election interference theory pushed largely by Russia. “I am deeply concerned,” said Nadler, “that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House.”
Nadler tried to yield the floor to another lawmaker, but Gohmert wouldn’t let him. He returned to the dais and roared—even though his microphone was off—until the speaker gaveled him down. Still fuming, Gohmert marched over to Nadler’s seat angrily speaking to him as he loomed over the Democrat. Nadler mostly didn’t engage, and Gohmert eventually stormed off.
A spokesperson for Gohmert did not respond to request for comment on what Gohmert said to Nadler.
It was a perfect finale to a two-week run of publicity for the Texas congressman, who has been a staunch defender of President Trump.
Over the span of two weeks, the Texas congressman compared the impeachment proceedings to the attack on Pearl Harbor, said the Democrats’ move to recess a late-night hearing was “Stalinesque,” suggested that Nadler was accepting bribes, and said that Joe Biden should be impeached if he wins the presidency. He floated an amendment to the articles of impeachment that struck Trump’s name and replaced it with the names of Nadler and Rep. Adam Schiff.
Typically, few people—either on the floor or on C-SPAN—tune into the congressman’s speeches. But he impressed an important audience during the widely carried debate on Wednesday.
The president himself approvingly retweeted a clip of Gohmert’s floor speech on Thursday—the ultimate accolade. “Our great Congressman Gohmert,” tweeted Trump, “is a TRUE patriot fighting back against people that must hate our Country!”
Over the past month, Gohmert—a member of the Judiciary Committee that handled articles of impeachment—has made the most of the wall-to-wall media coverage of the proceedings to treat millions of viewers to his remarks, turning impeachment into his own personal Gohmert hour.
In a remarkable moment during the committee’s formal consideration of articles of impeachment, for example, Gohmert did another thing he’s well known for: pushing the envelope further than many in Congress are willing to.
In a speech, Gohmert blasted Democrats for not calling in certain figures for testimony, including the anonymous whistleblower whose accounts sparked the impeachment inquiry. But unlike every single one of his colleagues, Gohmert actually said the person’s name—at least an alleged name floated in conservative media—which immediately crossed an unequivocal red line laid down by Democrats.
The Democrats watching were shocked that a member of Congress crossed that line, but few were surprised that Gohmert was the one to do it. In a previous hearing, the congressman stopped just short of outing the whistleblower; more to the point, he’s spent much of his career in Congress lighting bombs and gleefully running away, throwing caution and his reputation to the wind.
This scorched-earth communications strategy—one even Trump’s closest defenders are largely unwilling to adopt—is well in keeping with his Capitol Hill career. Gohmert is one of the House GOP’s most recognizable characters.
During a 2018 Judiciary Committee hearing with former FBI agent Peter Strzok—whose anti-Trump texts with a colleague with whom he was having an affair became a central part of the Republican case against the Mueller investigation—Gohmert used his time to speak to call Strzok a “disgrace.”
As a smile crept across Strzok’s face, Gohmert became increasingly agitated.
“There is the disgrace,” Gohmert continued, motioning toward Strzok. “And [trust in the FBI] won’t be recaptured anytime soon because of the damage you’ve done to the justice system. And I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them. You’ve embarrassed yourself.”
Noticing Strzok’s grin, Gohmert got personal.
“And I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”
With that, the committee erupted.
“This is an intolerable harassment of the witness!” one male lawmaker can be heard declaring off camera. “Have you no decency?” another said.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) can clearly be heard saying, “You need your medication!”
GOP leaders have seemed to accept that no matter the stage, Gohmert is, simply put, gonna Gohmert. “I give him credit,” said a longtime GOP operative. “I don’t think it’s a pathological need to be in front of the camera. I think he genuinely is just a conservative guy. He believes what he’s saying—it’s earnest and genuine.”
Former Speaker John Boehner had a tougher assessment, according to Tim Alberta’s American Carnage.
“Louie Gohmert is insane,” he told Alberta. “There’s not a functional brain in there. I don’t know what happened to him.”
In more than a decade, Gohmert has had only one bill become a law, but the one that did made a critical change to the 911 call system. That bill, called Kari's Law Act of 2017, was named for an East Texas woman, Kari Hunt Dunn, who was murdered as her 9-year-old daughter tried to dial 911. The child wasn’t able to get through due to the need to dial “9” to reach an outside line. Gohmert’s bill mandated that businesses with multi-line telephone systems allow direct access to 911. President Trump signed that bill into law in February 2018.
The rest of the 103 bills Gohmert has introduced over his career have been more eclectic. Sprinkled among the bills to ensure troops are paid in the event of a government shutdown, to limit what qualifies as an endangered species, and curtail which countries can receive foreign aid from the U.S. are some decidedly unusual ideas.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had constitutional rights to challenge their detention in court, Gohmert introduced the Giving Inmate Terrorists More Opportunities (GITMO) Act of 2008. This bill directed “the Secretary of Defense to immediately transport all enemy combatants detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Washington, DC, where the U.S. Supreme Court shall hold such prisoners on Court grounds, confined by adequate fencing.”
It noted that the prisoners would “use the restroom facilities inside the Court building” and allowed “any of the nine justices to guard the prisoners, or provide them with food and water, whenever they choose.”
The East Texas Republican’s long history of controversial statements, actions and general demeanor hasn’t hurt him one bit in his district. Since winning with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2004, he’s never dropped below 70 percent, most recently winning in 2018 with 73.9 percent of the vote.
Twenty-four hours after his fateful speech on Wednesday, Gohmert returned to the House floor, now-empty, to lob one more criticism at the impeachment process: it had infringed on lawmakers’ privilege to speak on the House floor.
“But with impeachment going on, the Speaker chose to shut that down for the week and shut down five-minute speeches, so, pretty well shut down the speech we normally are allowed to have,” said Gohmert.
“Normally, I would hope to read a Christmas proclamation, but since I am only allowed three more seconds, I would just say, merry Christmas. Happy New Year.”