When Things Get Heated in the Hearing Room

Strzok shouting match is hardly the first time emotions have erupted in the paneled recesses of the Capitol

Posters depicting the men who have pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe are displayed alongside Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as he gives his opening statement Thursday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

FBI agent Peter Strzok felt the heat at Thursday’s House Oversight and Judiciary hearing, as tempers flared and points of order flew.  

Chairman Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, brought the interrogative theatrics. “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok,” the South Carolina Republican told the witness, who was removed from the bureau’s Russia probe last year over politically charged texts.

It’s hardly the first time that tensions have bubbled over in the hearing room. From pointed hand gestures to noisy hearing-crashers, here are some recent highlights from the dais.

Watch Discord Erupt at Hearing After Strzok Refuses to Answer Gowdy



Heads may not roll, but fingers do wag. Rep. Jim Jordan traded gestures with Rod Rosenstein at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month. “We’re so frustrated,” said the Ohio Republican as he pressed the deputy attorney general on redacted documents featuring Strzok. Rosenstein pushed back, and a war of words (and hand movements) ensued.

Watch Jim Jordan and Rod Rosenstein’s Fiery Exchange

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Jon Tester lashed out at an Indian Health Service witness at an Appropriations subcommittee hearing in 2017. “Come on man, just answer the question,” the Montana Democrat said. “I cannot believe what has transpired today. All I want is some damn answers, that’s it.”

The senator got testy after the agency’s acting director stumbled over a question about staffing levels. “I did not come in here with my hair on fire,” Tester said. “But I’m leaving with it.”

Watch Tester Get Angry With Indian Health Service Witness


Wielding the clock

Rep. Maxine Waters sparked a thousand memes last summer with “reclaiming my time.” As she confronted Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during a House Financial Services hearing, the California Democrat had procedure on her side.

While Waters kept calm, the same can’t be said of most clock-watchers. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before a Senate committee last fall, lawmaker squabbled over time limits, counting down the minutes and seconds.

Watch Senators Spend Time Bickering Over Time at Sessions Hearing


Bringing the fire

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings tried to speak through his tears during a passionate statement at a hearing last month. After a long pause in which he tried to gain his composure, the Maryland Democrat pleaded with the chairman and his Republican colleagues to stop the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We need you, those children need you,” he said.

Watch Cummings Get Emotional About Family Separation Policy


Crashing the party

Protesters chanting “no cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty” disrupted a Senate Finance Committee on health care hearing last year. Chairman Orrin G. Hatch gave them some time before he gaveled out the hearing until “we have order.”

Those kinds of interruptions aren’t uncommon. Disability rights activists made their voices heard at a Rules Committee hearing in February, for example. “Don’t take our rights away, hands off the ADA,” they shouted.

Watch Protesters Derail First Few Minutes of Graham-Cassidy Hearing

Watch Activists Chant During Hearing on ADA Bill 


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