The administration's big guns – Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – A receptionist at the Capitol Hill from the Democrats is eager to pull back a presidency they see as out of control.  Tuesday zipped in a blur of grave constitutional tussles scented with the whiff of corruption. Surreal exchanges unfolded in the Congress that left the witnesses spluttering. There was a superficial feud over alternative facts.
The bizarre sidewalk encompassed climate denial, a spat of Adolf Hitler, one of the senator's meditations on Hollywood's molesting actors and a school-style squabble between a top Democrat and Mnuchin.
The weird juxtaposition of the weighty and the frivolous seemed to be an apt metaphor for how Trump's presidency has a tower of old-fashioned codes of political custom and behavior to shreds.
In the odd new normal of the Trump era, several top Cabinet officials found themselves to be answering questions about topics that would have seemed unthinkable at more conventional times.
Their intransigence offered a reminder that while Democrats in the House now have a duty to oversee after midterm elections, their effective use of power is far from easy.
For once, The President himself was not in the brightest spotlight.
More than anything, though, a day of barely suppressed tensions, flaring unreliability and disconnect between foes who barely share a common policy
The Russian scandal roars back
The capital is still reverberating after the Homeland Security Secretary's forced abandonment Kirstjen Nielsen On Sunday, in a White House, the purge of her agency amid an immigration crisis.
But the Russian scandal, which dominated politics for two years before a brief hiatus when Mueller ended his probe last month, came back roaring back.
Barr sparked new intrigue when he refused to say whether the White House had seen or will see the full Mueller report ahead of the release of a redacted version he promised to release within a week.
His reticence only fanned Democratic suspicions that The newly appointed Attorney General is running a trunk for Trump – after Barr released a letter last month underlining what he says are bottom-line findings that are largely favorable to the president. [
Reports last week, members of the Mueller's team were dismayed, feeling that Barr was not adequately portrayed.
Furious Democrats accused Barr of covering up for his new boss.
"It's what he was hired to do, which is to protect the President, "said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
"The president wanted his own Roy Cohn and apparently he got one," the California Democrat said, comparing Barr to the New York Attorney and Machiavelli who had mentored Trump as a rising real estate kingpin.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, until recently, part of a GOP, who spent months trying to make public documents embarrassing to the Democrats, argued against the Congress exercising oversight over the unbridled report.
"Do you think they keep secret? No. We would harm people, "he said.
The kind of chaos now unfolding in Washington – with the American set against American and the skepticism about the legitimacy of the president – is the kind of result that Putin can only have dreamed of at
It may not be a coincidence that he chose this moment to offer his most expansive remarks yet on the Mueller probe, which appear to be calculated to sow even more discords. 9659002] Choosing to talk points similar to Trump's own, Putin said in St. Petersburg that the scandal was "total nonsense aimed only at a domestic audience."
"It's clearer to Trump what a witch hunt is. We know the history of the United States. It's a dark page in American history." Putin said of the investigation
Like Barr, Mnuchin left his Democratic inquisitors with the impression that the White House was stacking the deck behind the scenes.
He revealed that his department's lawyers had consulted with the White House before the Democrats submitted their request with the IRS for six years of the president's tax returns last week.
Given that the legal process underlying the request is supposed to be insulated from the White House to avoid interference, his answer set alarm bells ringing again.
" I do not see that as interference, "Mnuchin said, arguing that his team had not taken direction from White House lawyers.
Even the lighter moments on Tuesday emphasized the feeling of a giant disconnect that penetrates Washi ngton.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois opened the hearing by asking Mnuchin how his NCAA bracket was panned out.
"I'm a bigger fan of professional basketball," Mnuchin replied.
Festering ill feeling between the administration and the Democrats boiled over when Mnuchin told House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters that he needed to be formally dismissed after an exchange that sounded like a bickering between a teacher and a challenging student.
: "You're supposed to take the gavel and bang it, that's the proper …"
The California Democrat replied: "Please do not instruct me how to I am to conduct this committee."
'Are you serious?'
Tuesday's most flagrant display of failing to connect came over at the House Oversight Committee, where two old Washington bulls – John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – testified climate change.
Republicans on the panel have greeted Kerry as a returning victim ready for another roughing up in a hearing that revealed two rival sides working from a contradictory vision of fact.
The former secretary of state had trouble believing the assaults mounted by GOP members on the subject of global warming.
At one point, Kentucky's Republican Rep. Thomas Massie asked Kerry on his Yale degree, suggesting that someone who had majored in political science was unqualified to testify on climate change.
"I think it's appropriate that someone with a pseudo-science degree is pushing pseudo-science in front of our committee today, "Massie said.
A baffled Kerry replied:" Are you serious? "
After another exchange, in which Massie downplayed the impact of humans on climate change, Kerry shot back, saying this was" just not a serious conversation. "
" Your testimony is not serious, "Massie replied.
In a more sinister sign of the times, YouTube was forced to disable comments on a livestream of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes after it was flooded with racist a nd anti-Semitic remarks.
The witness, Candace Owens, of the conservative group of Turning Point in the United States, who was then distanced herself from
"I think it's pretty obvious that Mr. Lieu believes that black people are stupid and will not pursue the clip in its entirety," she said.
Owens accused It's a reminder that it's never been a good idea to include Hitler in any contemporary political analogy.
In equally strange twist on another difficult issue, Sen. "I do not know how the actors in Hollywood have time to make movies," said the Louisiana Republican, said John Kennedy offered a typically florid aide in a floor speech touting his bill on tackling sexual harassment.
"They are too busy molesting each other."
In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was a case of a poacher-turned-gamekeeper as Pompeo turned up to testify.
Pompeo, in a previous incarnation as a congressman of Kansas , was a master of committee histrionics, especially when Hillary Clinton was in the witness chair.
Now that he's taken her place, he's disdainful of such behavior, and there was a tense exchange of US policy on the Middle East and Trump's scything of the diplomatic budget, which Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, blasted as "banana."
But finally, at the end of a long, dispiriting Washington day, there was a rare moment of comity after Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, offered a survey of foreign policy challenges in Africa.
"I think I agree with everything you said there," Pompeo said.
CNN's Donna Borak, Lindy Royce, Manu Raju , Nicky Robertson, Kylie Atwood and Leslie Bentz contributed to this story.