House Democrats ramp up Trump investigations
House Democrats embarked on a far-reaching investigation of the Trump administration this week, demanding documents from 81 different individuals and organizations. The House Judiciary Committee—which has the power to begin impeachment proceedings against the president—sent letters touching on virtually every major controversy surrounding the White House. Those include Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the president’s business dealings with Russia, and his alleged hush-money payment made to an adult-film star. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee’s goal is “building the public record” by probing allegations of corruption, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice. “Impeachment is a long way down the road,” Nadler told ABC News. “We don’t have all the facts yet, but we’re going to initiate proper investigations.”
The House has demanded records of communications from a broad sweep of figures with close ties to Trump. Targets include the president’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowksi, as well as organizations such as political data firm Cambridge Analytica and the National Rifle Association. Congressional oversight is ramping up on other fronts as well. In the coming weeks, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to request 10 years of Trump’s tax returns. The House intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees have also requested all documents concerning President Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump dismissed the investigations as “presidential harassment” and a “big, fat fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime,” tweeting that House Democrats have gone “stone cold CRAZY” for investigations. “They won’t get ANYTHING done for our Country!”
What the editorials said
“After two years of supine Republican leadership,” we finally have a House that takes its job seriously, said The Boston Globe. There’s a “long list of credible allegations involving President Trump.” Investigating all of them requires casting a wide net. Lawmakers should aggressively exercise their constitutional oversight duties, including issuing subpoenas for uncooperative witnesses. Democrats are naturally concerned about appearing “too partisan.” But that shouldn’t be a problem as long as they focus on genuine abuses of presidential power and crimes. “Congress has a duty to the American people to get the facts.” This is the “witch hunt” that President Trump is always talking about, said the New York Post. House Democrats are already talking as if they have proof of impeachable offenses, with Nadler telling reporters that it’s “very clear that the president obstructed justice.” But at the same time, Nadler says the House has more work to do before it can actually impeach Trump. In other words, they’re “going to keep looking for something, anything that actually fits the bill.” This isn’t about finding the truth. It’s about Democrats’ desire “to restage All the President’s Men.”
What the columnists said
“This isn’t overkill,” said Jill Lawrence in USA Today, it’s oversight. And the list of alleged misdeeds that need examining grows by the day. There are already 17 ongoing law enforcement investigations that we know of into the Trump administration, including probes of the Trump campaign and the president’s personal foundation and businesses. Democrats are kicking up more leads: Their grilling of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen last week has led state regulators in New York to investigate whether the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurers.
This fishing expedition “reeks of desperation,” said Elad Hakim in TheFederalist.com. With special counsel Robert Mueller seemingly close to wrapping up his work, Democrats are worried that Mueller’s findings on Russia and Trump will turn out to be a dud. So they’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the president, hoping that something lands. It’s not going to work, said Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal. “After hearing Russia, Russia, Russia for 24 months,” voters will surely notice that Democrats are moving the goalposts to tax and financial matters. But Americans knew that Trump was a shady operator and voted him into office anyway.
The American people also stuck by President Richard Nixon, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. That is, until they didn’t. In less than two years, voters “went from overwhelmingly re-electing Richard Nixon to largely supporting his impeachment.” Televised congressional hearings were a key factor in his downfall, transfixing the public and putting the president’s criminality “at the center of political life.” By the time they were over, the bungled burglary at the Watergate Hotel had become shorthand “for a much wider range of administration corruption.” We can’t know if Democrats’ new batch of investigations will ultimately lead to Trump’s impeachment. But “they can create a narrative that even a reality TV impresario can’t control.”
“Grueling fights are looming over executive privilege,” said Stephen Collinson in CNN.com. White House officials are already refusing requests for documents and witnesses related to security clearance practices. The standoff comes amid reports that President Trump ordered security clearances be given to his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner over the objections of then–Chief of Staff John Kelly and other top officials. If the House issues a subpoena for the information, it could spark a lengthy legal fight “that could be repeated scores of times in the coming months.” Despite the investigative onslaught, congressional Republicans are sticking by their president, said Robert Costa in The Washington Post. Last week’s Cohen hearing, in which the GOP showed “little interest” in following up on the president’s former lawyer’s claims, is a likely template for hearings going forward. “We’re not going to turn on our own and make the Democrats happy,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “We don’t see any benefit in fracturing, but we do see a lot to lose.”
Cover illustration by Howard McWilliam.
Cover photos from Newscom, Shutterstock, Suzy Gorman/NBC