- Democrats on Tuesday flipped the House of Representatives in a major rebuke of Donald Trump’s presidency.
- Now that they control the House, Democrats plan to launch an investigative blitz against the White House and Russian interests.
- They also plan to focus significant resources on examining the administration’s healthcare and economic agenda.
Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night in the 2018 midterm elections in a major rebuke of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The win sparked renewed speculation about whether the party will move to impeach Trump.
But few Democrats want to actively talk about impeaching Trump, whether it’s on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail. For many,the issue is a nuisance and a distraction from more serious matters. Senior leadership has also repeatedly cautioned against impeachment, warning that it would only deepen partisan squabbling in Congress.
Instead of impeachment, Democrats plan to tighten the screws by mounting an investigative blitz against the White House and Russian interests.
“I am not looking for headlines,” Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told The New York Times earlier this year. “I am going to be defending the truth. We want to look at what is happening under this administration because all of us can agree this is not normal.”
According to two sources close to the House Intelligence Committee, who requested anonymity to speak freely about post-election plans, Democrats plan to focus a significant amount of energy on reopening the panel’s now-shuttered investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favour.
“On a whole host of investigative threads, our work is fundamentally incomplete, some issues partially investigated, others, like that involving credible allegations of Russian money laundering, remain barely touched,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel’s ranking member, said after chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, shut down the investigation earlier this year.
“If the Russians do have leverage over the president of the United States, the majority has simply decided it would rather not know,” Schiff said.
Democrats also plan to reintroduce legislation safeguarding the integrity of the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation by protecting key figures like special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Moreover, they want to bring legislation protecting future elections from foreign influence by countering nation-state sponsored cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
Where the White House is concerned, one source close to the House Oversight Committee said Democrats want to pressure the president to beef up surveillance bodies that are tasked with overseeing the intelligence community, like the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
The source said Democrats also plan to scrutinize the White House’s process of granting security clearances. The issue took center stage this year after the White House raised red flags by granting high level clearances to White House staffers like former staff secretary Rob Porter. In February, the White House downgraded the clearances of more than 30 aides, revoking their top-secret level access.
The president also attracted sharp criticism when he revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance in August and announced he would be revoking the clearance of several other current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials. All the names on the list were people who have been critical of the president in the past and were involved in the Russia investigation.
Reviewing Trump’s process in granting and revoking clearances will be a “top priority” for Democrats, the source close to the House Oversight Committee said, adding that lawmakers would also subpoena documents related to the revocation of Brennan’s clearance.
Trump could face dozens of nightmare scenarios
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer outlined several other areas Democrats will prioritise, most of which involved the administration’s economic and health care agendas.
The committees on the budget, ways and means, and financial services will likely probe Trump’s handling of the US economy and budgetary process, while others would look into botched natural disaster responses.
Among the highest priorities for Democrats is the Trump administration’s dismantling of former President Barack Obama’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act.
“In terms of oversight, we’ll be looking at what they’re doing administratively to undermine the operations of the Affordable Care Act and what consequences they may have caused to literally millions of people,” Hoyer said in a meeting with reporters in September.
An area that could be particularly stressful for Trump is the probing of his personal finances and benefits his properties and companies may or may not be receiving during his presidency.
“I think we’ll try to focus on issues which undermine the American people,” Hoyer added. “Also I think we want to focus on the integrity of the interests of the president in terms of what interests he has and is he pursuing policies that are in the public’s interest or in the Trump investment interest.”
The pledge by Democrats to pursue countless investigations into the Trump administration could put a serious hindrance on Republicans’ agenda – and create dozens of nightmare scenarios for the president.