Donald Trump’s congressional enablers have been working overtime to cover up each and every scandal that surfaces about the president. But in a move that demonstrates they know exactly what they’re doing, someone in their ranks has been circulating a list of scandals that are likely to be investigated if Democrats take control of the House next year. Jonathan Swan got the memo.
Congressional Republicans are getting ready for hell. Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that’s circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill — including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House…
It has churned Republican stomachs. Here are some of the probes it predicts:
President Trump’s tax returns
Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
James Comey’s firing
Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys
Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings
White House staff’s personal email use
Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago
Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance
Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors
The travel ban
Family separation policy
Hurricane response in Puerto Rico
Election security and hacking attempts
White House security clearances
For most of us, that list represents what a responsible congress would be looking into if they were providing the kind of executive oversight that our Constitution proscribes. But what do Trump’s Republican enablers want to do with a list like that? Jonathan Chait nailed it:
Republicans have so completely internalized their role as handmaidens to Trump’s corruption that they have turned evidence of his incompetence and guilt into an argument for maintaining their power to cover it up. Why are they emphasizing this point? Some Republican voters are unenthusiastic about the midterm elections, and fail to grasp the stakes. Since the base likes Trump much more than they do his congressional allies, it makes sense for the purposes of base mobilization to emphasize their role as Trump’s legal bodyguards.
In other words, congressional Republicans created this list for the same reason that they want to talk about impeachment if a blue wave actually materializes in November. It plays well to Trump’s base to present themselves as his protectors from a possible Democratic majority.
But let’s be clear. If Democrats actually do take back the House in November, there will be limits to how much they can do.
Re the spreadsheet with ideas for hearings, Congress has a fraction of the staff it had during the Watergate era–Newt saw to that. It lacks the manpower to do more than a fraction of these proposed hearings competently. Doing them incompetently may be worse than doing nothing.
— Bruce Bartlett (@BruceBartlett) August 26, 2018
What Newt saw to is what Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards called, “The Big Lobotomy.”
A quick refresher: In 1995, after winning a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, one of the first things the new Republican House leadership did was gut Congress’s workforce. They cut the “professional staff” (the lawyers, economists, and investigators who work for committees rather than individual members) by a third. They reduced the “legislative support staff” (the auditors, analysts, and subject-matter experts at the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the Congressional Research Service [CRS], and so on) by a third, too, and killed off the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entirely…Since 2011, with a Tea Party-radicalized GOP back in control of the House, Congress has cut its budget by a whopping 20 percent, a far higher ratio than any other federal agency, leading, predictably, to staff layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, and drooping morale.
If we are ever going to have a truly functioning congress, fixing that will have to be a long-term goal for Democrats. But it’s not likely to happen in 2019-2020, so that means prioritizing the kinds of items included in the list up above. I’d suggest they let Mueller handle the Trump/Russia probe and obstruction of justice charges. Zeroing in on securing our elections as well as the corruption of both the president and his cabinet members would all be time well spent.