A contentious crowd turned out Tuesday for U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin's second of four town hall events the 2nd District congressman is billing as an impeachment update.
The Westville Republican's stop in Muskogee attracted about 60 people who were told they "should worry" about the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Mullin emphasized the need for fairness during the impeachment proceedings, while sowing doubt about those tasked with carrying out the inquiry.
"What's happening right now in Washington, D.C., the way the proceedings are being held compared to the way they were held in the past, should worry everybody," Mullin said. "Regardless if you are a Republican or a Democrat, it should worry everybody because if they can do this to the President of the United States, don't kid yourself if you don't think they can't also one day do it to you, too."
Mullin strayed from the format of prior town hall meetings, presenting slides and videotaped comments made by some of his Democratic colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mullin used the video, which was packaged with a soundtrack, to bolster an argument that U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff cannot be trusted.
Schiff, who represents California's 28th Congressional District, will lead the impeachment proceedings as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mullin, defending a president who according to The Washington Post has made 13,435 false or misleading claims since taking office, took Schiff to task because he "openly admitted that he didn't tell the truth" about what was known about a whistleblower's identity.
"When you have a chairman that goes out there and openly misleads the American people, there is a problem with that," Mullin said. "It is not a question of if he has lied, he has openly admitted that he didn't tell the truth, not once or twice but multiple times."
The video presented during the town hall meeting highlighted comments made by Schiff during a televised interview, during which he said he was unaware of the identity of a whistleblower who revealed information about Trump's telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Schiff later acknowledged he had met with the whistleblower before those public comments were made.
Mullin also cited Schiff's characterization of the transcript of Trump's telephone conversation with Zelensky as a point of concern. Schiff introduced his statement as the "essence of what the president" communicated during that telephone call, but Mullin described it Tuesday as "an absolute made-up lie."
"The transcript had been unredacted, it was done by a stenographer -- it was released, unredacted, when Adam Schiff decides to go into the committee and read his version of it," Mullin said. "That is an absolute made-up lie from the chairman of the Intel Committee; now there is no excuse for that whatsoever."
The congressman's characterization of the impeachment inquiry prompted spontaneous comments from several people in the audience. Banter between those in attendance and Mullin escalated to shouts by some in the audience who told those they disagreed with to "shut up" or "sit down."
Mullin, who promised earlier to give everybody a chance to ask questions after his presentation, threatened to have one man removed for interrupting before the presentation concluded. There was no follow-through with the removal, but the contention among the audience remained, despite Mullin's pleas for mutual respect.
Tom Taton, Okmulgee County chairman of the Democratic Party, said after the meeting he had attended Mullin's previous town hall meetings. Taton said he "knew pretty much what was going on" but wanted to let Mullin "know that people are watching, and we are not going to accept the standard line," which he described as "lies."
Michael Key of Checotah said it hurts him when the president and other elected officials question the integrity of lifelong civil servants "who sacrifice their lives for this country." Key, who has family members who have served in similar positions, said those people whose patriotism is being questioned by the president and his supporters "stay outside the fringe of politics the best they can" and deserve better than they are getting.
Ward I Councilor Patrick Cale thanked Mullin and his staff for providing the update and apologized "on behalf of the community" for those who disrupted the presentation.
"I take it as a personal affront when we're here to learn and gain information from you and the event has been half-sabotaged," Cale said. "I apologize for that" and hope "people that don't agree with some of these folks follow your lead, let them ask or say what they want, be polite and show respect."
Since a very high-profile clash with Cherokee County residents, Mullin has not held a public town hall meeting in Tahlequah since October 2017. Several Cherokee County residents were at the Muskogee event, however, and later said they challenged Mullin's version of the impeachment proceedings and other comments he made.
Among those speaking out two years ago were Leslie Moyer, who with other Cherokee County women held up small colored cards in a contentious town hall elsewhere. Cathy Cooper Cott also said she asked Mullin if she refused to comply with a subpoena to appear before Congress, as several Trump staffers have, whether she'd be arrested. She said she received no response.
Tahlequah Daily Press staff contributed to this report.