D.C. in battle mode as Trump vows re­tal­i­a­tion against probes by Dems

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey

WASH­ING­TON» Wash­ing­ton plunged into po­lit­i­cal war Wed­nes­day in the wake of a split de­ci­sion by vot­ers in the midterm elec­tions, with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump oust­ing his at­tor­ney general and threat­en­ing to re­tal­i­ate against Democrats if they launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his per­sonal con­duct and pos­si­ble cor­rup­tion in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The rapid shift to battle sta­tions sig­naled the start of what is likely to be two years of un­remit­ting po­lit­i­cal com­bat as Trump po­si­tions him­self for re-elec­tion. For the first time, Trump will be forced to nav­i­gate di­vided govern­ment as Democrats who won the House pledge to be a check on his power and face pres­sure from their lib­eral base to block him at ev­ery turn.

The ac­ri­mony was punc­tu­ated by Trump’s bom­bast, as the pres­i­dent re­fused to show con­tri­tion or take re­spon­si­bil­ity for his party’s washout in many sub­ur­ban ar­eas where vot­ers who pre­vi­ously backed Repub­li­cans re­jected the pres­i­dent’s hard-line pol­i­tics.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi,

Calif., who is poised to lead the new Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity as speaker, said her cau­cus would use its sub­poena author­ity to pur­sue sweep­ing over­sight of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We will have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to honor our over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and that’s the path that we will go down,” she told re­porters. But, she added, Democrats would do so in the in­ter­est of “try­ing to unify our coun­try.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., whose party lost seats in the up­per cham­ber, none­the­less cheered the House tri­umph and said, “There’s now a check on Don­ald Trump, and that is great news for Amer­ica.”

In the wake of Tues­day’s midterms, some al­lies said, Trump was both em­bold­ened — be­cause he be­lieved he had helped ex­pand the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate — and ap­pre­hen­sive, be­cause he would no longer be able to bend all of Congress to his will.

But un­like his pre­de­ces­sors who ac­knowl­edged a “shel­lack­ing” (Barack Obama in 2010) or a “thump­ing” (Ge­orge W. Bush in 2006) after midterm losses, Trump spun his own re­al­ity by claim­ing “very close to com­plete vic­tory.”

Trump said in a wide-rang­ing and of­ten sharp-tongued news con­fer­ence that any hope for bi­par­ti­san deals would evap­o­rate if House Democrats use their new power to in­ves­ti­gate him or his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Such ef­forts, he said bluntly, would pre­cip­i­tate “a war­like pos­ture.”

House Democrats have said they plan to be­gin a se­ries of in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing is­su­ing a sub­poena for his tax re­turns, which he has for years re­fused to re­lease. Trump said he would re­spond by us­ing the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate as a cud­gel, in­struct­ing his al­lies there to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged mis­con­duct by Democrats.

“They can play that game, but we can play it bet­ter, be­cause we have a thing called the United States Se­nate,” Trump said. “They can look at us, then we can look at them and it’ll go back and forth. And it’ll prob­a­bly be very good for me po­lit­i­cally ... be­cause I think I’m bet­ter at that game than they are, ac­tu­ally.”

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., on Wed­nes­day dodged a re­porter’s ques­tion about what Se­nate Repub­li­cans would do if House Democrats try to in­ves­ti­gate Trump.

“The Democrats in the House will have to de­cide just how much pres­i­den­tial ha­rass­ment they think is good strat­egy,” McCon­nell told re­porters. “I’m not so sure it will work for them,” he added, not­ing that Repub­li­can in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in the late 1990s back­fired po­lit­i­cally.

McCon­nell is try­ing to po­si­tion the Se­nate as a sta­ble front for con­ser­va­tive gover­nance and to stay out of the po­lit­i­cal fire­fight be­tween Trump and House Democrats, ac­cord­ing to his ad­vis­ers. As the Se­nate leader told re­porters, his top pri­or­ity will con­tinue to be con­firm­ing con­ser­va­tive nom­i­nees to fed­eral courts, which Repub­li­cans have done at a record pace the last two years.

Trump has told ad­vis­ers that he in­tends to ex­ploit di­vi­sions among House Democrats, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior White House of­fi­cial. He be­lieves he can pit Pelosi and oth­ers who are in­ter­ested in mak­ing deals with him on poli­cies like in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing against those who rose to of­fice in­tent on block­ing his agenda and, per­haps, be­gin­ning im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings.

The pres­i­dent’s al­lies ar­gued that Democrats were over­es­ti­mat­ing their man­date from Tues­day’s elec­tions and will emerge as a use­ful po­lit­i­cal foil for Trump as he seeks re­elec­tion.

“I feel sorry for the Democrats be­cause he’s go­ing to crush them,” for­mer Trump deputy cam­paign man­ager David Bossie said. “These peo­ple hate him more than they want to do their jobs, and that’ll al­low him to be re­elected in 2020.”

Trump also has said pri­vately that he does not be­lieve his ad­min­is­tra­tion should nec­es­sar­ily co­op­er­ate with Demo­cratic in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and that he would be will­ing to fight sub­poe­nas to the Supreme Court if nec­es­sary, ac­cord­ing to the se­nior White House of­fi­cial and an out­side ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, both of whom spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to share in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions.

Dur­ing his re­mark­ably com­bat­ive news con­fer­ence in the East Room of the White House on Wed­nes­day, Trump re­peat­edly lost his cool as he an­swered ques­tions from jour­nal­ists for 86 min­utes. He called CNN’s Jim Acosta “a rude, ter­ri­ble per­son,” snapped at Peter Alexan­der of NBC News and di­rected April Ryan of Amer­i­can Ur­ban Ra­dio to “sit down.” And when Yamiche Al­cin­dor of “PBS NewsHour” asked the pres­i­dent whether by iden­ti­fy­ing as a “na­tion­al­ist” he also was em­brac­ing the la­bel “white na­tion­al­ist,” he told her re­peat­edly, “That’s such a racist ques­tion.”

“To say what you just said is so in­sult­ing to me,” Trump re­sponded to Al­cin­dor, who is black.

Trump also was cut­ting in his crit­i­cism of some House Repub­li­cans who lost re-elec­tion, sin­gling them out by name and at­tribut­ing their losses to their de­ci­sions to dis­tance them­selves from him.

“Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost,” Trump said, re­fer­ring to the de­feated Utah con­gress­woman who was the lone black Repub­li­can woman in the House. In a mock­ing tone, he con­tin­ued: “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”

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