As senators kept asking Comey the same questions over and over—or questions that they knew he could not possibly answer in an open session—the room grew a bit restless. Kara and her friends began knocking back white Russians. The noise level would rise to the point where you could just barely hear the TV, only to be fiercely shushed back down again. At one point, the audio feed went out for several seconds, and the crowd immediately broke out with cries of, “What the hell, Fox!” and, “Cover up!”
By the time Senator Susan Collins got her turn at Comey—around 11:20ish—most people had stopped listening and started talking and drinking in earnest. Every now and again, an outraged woman somewhere near the middle of the room would yell, “Quiet!” or “We’re here for a reason!” But she would mostly get laughed down or ignored. “Thanks, Mom!” a guy near me fired back at one point.
The room started clearing out around noon. (More than two hours in, I snagged a seat!) Some people had afternoon meetings to get to. Others had come to the disappointing conclusion that, for whatever reason, Trump wasn’t going to be tweeting, and thus there would be no free drinks.
But enough folks stuck around to keep the bar hopping as people eased into lunchtime. Two beefy guys in jeans and casual shirts—the super tall one was named Colin, his friend with the blue baseball hat was Mike—chowed down on a basketful of wings as they dissected the Comey-bashing tweets that Donald Trump Jr. had been firing off all morning. Their ruling: Jr. was trying to be funny, but didn’t quite have the smarts to pull it off.
Both Mike and Colin had cleared their schedules and were “telecommuting” for the day. If anything at either of their offices blew up, their coworkers knew how to reach them. But otherwise, they planned to just hang out. “This is my favorite D.C. holiday!” joked Colin. “Investigations!”
Mike agreed. “All my friends who don’t live here don’t get it—even my sister who works in politics.”
“All my friends around the country wish they were here,” said Colin.
As it turned out, Colin and Mike and the rest of the lingerers wound up pretty happy to be there. Not long after the hearing was gaveled closed around 12:40, the bartenders started circulating with trays of vodka shots and bottles of Budweiser “America” beer—all on the house. Trump may not have delivered the expected tweetstorm, but that was no reason to send people away thirsty. And so the party rolled on.
I packed up and headed out not long after 1:00. On my way out the door, an exceedingly jovial Natsagdorj stopped me. “Your tweets have been killer!” he gushed. (He’d had me input my twitter handle into his phone earlier.) “You and Donald Trump Jr.—yours are the tweets I’ve been retweeting the most!” And with that, he swept me up in a giant bear hug.
For one shining (if possibly boozy) moment, tribal allegiance was forgotten, and everyone could get along.
Maybe we ought to do this more often.