Ex­pect grid­lock, nas­ti­ness ahead. But maybe Trump’s tax re­turns, too.

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - Dahleen Glan­ton dglan­ton@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @dahleeng

Now that Democrats have taken con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the Amer­i­can peo­ple have to ask them­selves a very im­por­tant ques­tion: How bad do they want to see Don­ald Trump’s tax re­turns?

Trump made it very clear last week that he isn’t go­ing to turn them over with­out a fight. And he didn’t stop there. He also threat­ened to hold the na­tion hostage if the Democrats start in­ves­ti­gat­ing him.

Cer­tainly, Trump’s tax re­turns aren’t the only thing Democrats could start nos­ing around on, nor are they the most im­por­tant. There are lots of pos­si­bil­i­ties, from look­ing into po­ten­tial ethics vi­o­la­tions to hold­ing an im­peach­ment hear­ing.

Now that Jeff Ses­sions has been ousted as at­tor­ney gen­eral, even spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion likely is in jeop­ardy. Democrats could be the only ones stand­ing who can make sure that any in­for­ma­tion Mueller has un­cov­ered thus far isn’t swept un­der the rug.

Trump has his own ideas, though. When it comes to over­sight, he’s de­mand­ing that Democrats al­low him to coast along like he did when Repub­li­cans were in charge. Oth­er­wise, he says he’ll shut down the gov­ern­ment and blame it on the Democrats.

The vot­ers who turned out en masse for Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions would never stand for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the sta­tus quo. They’re de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity, and if Democrats want to main­tain con­trol, they’d bet­ter not forget it.

That leaves only one pos­si­ble sce­nario for the next two years — po­lit­i­cal grid­lock. We’ve seen it be­fore, and it isn’t pretty.

The day af­ter the elec­tion, you would have thought there would have been some sin­cere talk about bring­ing the coun­try to­gether. A few peo­ple men­tioned it, but it was ob­vi­ously just lip ser­vice.

In a cou­ple of months, prob­a­bly even be­fore then, any chat­ter about pass­ing bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion on things like pre­scrip­tion drugs and in­fra­struc­ture will com­pletely dis­ap­pear.

For the next two years, no sub­stan­tive leg­is­la­tion will make it through both houses of Congress to be­come law. No mat­ter how much we might long for com­pro­mise, things just don’t work like that in Washington any­more.

Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi, who is ex­pected to be­come House speaker in Jan­uary, said this is a “new day” and things will be dif­fer­ent in Washington from here on in.

And Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell is­sued his own warn­ing from the Repub­li­cans that they’ve got Trump’s back if the Democrats in­sist on “pres­i­den­tial ha­rass­ment.”

But what the Repub­li­cans might con­sider to be ha­rass­ment, Democrats will in­sist is their “con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to have over­sight,” as Pelosi put it.

There’s still a lot of anger among a large seg­ment of Amer­i­cans who feel as though Trump has been able to get away with too much un­der to­tal Repub­li­can rule.

They are con­vinced that there’s a trea­sure trove of cor­rup­tion just wait­ing to be un­cov­ered. They’d bet money on some dark fi­nan­cial deal­ings lurk­ing in his tax re­turns. And who knows what kind of shaky deals his com­pa­nies are in­volved in with Rus­sia or China?

Some peo­ple will not be sat­is­fied un­less the House im­peaches Trump, which, as we learned from Bill Clin­ton, isn’t enough to kick a pres­i­dent out of of­fice. That power rests with the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate, and it would take Richard Nixon-type rev­e­la­tions for Repub­li­cans to do it. Maybe that wouldn’t even be enough for McCon­nell and his crew.

What we also learned on Tues­day is that there are still a lot of Trump sup­port­ers who would stand by the pres­i­dent no mat­ter what. And there are still a lot of Repub­li­can politi­cians who know they can­not keep their jobs un­less Trump gives his fol­low­ers per­mis­sion to vote for them.

That leaves us with what to do about those tax re­turns. Some high-rank­ing Democrats al­ready have said they will use their new power to sub­poena Trump’s tax re­turns, which he re­fused to re­lease dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and con­tin­ues to keep shrouded in se­crecy.

Pelosi told the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle on Wed­nes­day that go­ing af­ter Trump’s tax re­turns is “one of the first things we’d do” and that it is “the eas­i­est in the world.”

That’s ex­actly what Trump doesn’t want. If the Democrats start in­ves­ti­gat­ing him, he warned, he’s go­ing to sic the Repub­li­can Se­nate on them.

Wed­nes­day morn­ing, he tweeted this: “If the Democrats think they are go­ing to waste Tax­payer Money in­ves­ti­gat­ing us at the House level, then we will like­wise be forced to con­sider in­ves­ti­gat­ing them for all of the leaks of Clas­si­fied In­for­ma­tion, and much else, at the Se­nate level. Two can play that game!”

And he in­sists that he’s bet­ter at play­ing this “game” than Democrats are.

We’d might as well brace our­selves for two more years of ugly fights that nei­ther Democrats nor Repub­li­cans can win.

As al­ways, the Amer­i­can peo­ple will be the big­gest losers. But at least, we’ll have those tax re­turns.

No mat­ter how much we might long for com­pro­mise, things just don’t work like that in Washington any­more.

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