Narrator: It didn’t stop. Donald Trump picked up from where he left off in his State of the Union speech this morning, blasting House Democrats for “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” Trump objected to an announcement from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) that the House Intelligence Committee would start probing Trump’s personal finances for potential “money laundering and financial compromise,” while another committee also ponders subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns:
The House Intelligence Committee’s new Democratic leadership will scrutinize “credible reports of money laundering and financial compromise” involving the businesses of President Donald Trump and those closest to him, the panel’s chairman said Wednesday, one of several priorities as lawmakers open a fresh investigation into the president’s alleged Russia ties.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., outlined a five-point plan for the committee’s investigation, encompassing everything from Russia’s election interference to the question of whether foreign governments have leverage over Trump, his relatives or associates. Schiff indicated that the panel uncovered evidence of such vulnerabilities while under Republican leadership but neglected to pursue it.
“For the last two years, the Republican majority has essentially been missing in action when it comes to being a co-equal branch of government,” Schiff said Wednesday, promising that Democrats are “not going to be intimidated or threatened” by Trump’s warnings against the Democrat-led investigations. “That ended with the midterms. We’re going to do our jobs.”
Trump had warned Democrats on Tuesday that “if there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” in his SOTU speech. “It just doesn’t work that way!” he declared. Nancy Pelosi called that an “all-out threat,” but it was only a rather astute observation that scorched-earth tactics by House Democrats would result in little to no cooperation on their own policy items. The tenor and substance of Schiff’s answer were hardly unexpected, nor would they have been any different absent Trump’s warning. Schiff has been planning this for two years, not two days.
Unfortunately, as Trump has discovered, elections have consequences. Only Congress gets to dictate what it can and cannot investigate, despite Trump’s pleas on Twitter this morning:
Oh, Republicans opened up a few investigations into Obama too, so much so that Obama had the same complaint — that the GOP was more interested in investigating than legislating. (Hillary Clinton had a complaint or two about it as well.) They didn’t delve into Obama’s personal finances, but that was mainly because (a) they weren’t that complicated, and (b) Obama routinely released his tax returns. Trump chose not to do so after first promising that he would, which combined with his massive business creates a unique situation in the history of the American presidency. Keeping his returns private is Trump’s right and his choice. It does, however, leave an opening for a hostile opposition to exploit, and the current opposition is very, very hostile.
The flip side of that works in Trump’s favor, however. Anything Schiff concludes will be laden with hyperpartisanship and seriously deficient in credibility. On top of that, most Americans simply won’t care about Trump’s business connections from the past. They want Congress focused on them, not on mudfights across Pennsylvania Avenue. Malfeasance in office is one thing, but rehashing deals from 2014 is old news in more ways than one. That’s why it’s also in Congress’ interest to put aside the “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” and focus on the present day. Our governing institutions have already lost the confidence of the governed, and all sides seem intent on destroying any future hope of regaining it.