Democrats in the House Sab­rina Sid­diqui, page 14

The midterm landslide fi­nally opens the pres­i­dent up to con­gres­sional over­sight – but where to start …

The Guardian Weekly - - The Big Story - By Sab­rina Sid­diqui

For the first time in the two years since Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, Democrats are no longer watch­ing or protest­ing from the side­lines.

Fresh off a ma­jor vic­tory in the Novem­ber 2018 midterms, Democrats are pre­par­ing to utilise the in­ves­tiga­tive au­thor­i­ties af­forded to Congress as le­gal trou­bles con­tinue to mount for the pres­i­dent and his in­ner cir­cle.

The ques­tion be­fore Democrats ap­pears to be what not to in­ves­ti­gate – and whether there’s any room for ne­go­ti­a­tion with a pres­i­dent who is anath­ema to the party’s base.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Demo­cratic leader, de­clared on the night of the 7 Novem­ber midterm elec­tions that it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton to find com­mon ground.

“We will strive for bi­par­ti­san­ship, with fair­ness on all sides,” Pelosi said in a vic­tory speech after the House was won by the Democrats.

“A Demo­cratic Congress will work for so­lu­tions that bring us to­gether, be­cause we have all had enough of divi­sion. The Amer­i­can peo­ple want peace. They want re­sults.”

But Pelosi, who in 2007 be­came the first woman to serve as House speaker, also is­sued a sharp warn­ing to the White House, stat­ing the elec­tion was “about restor­ing the con­sti­tu­tion’s checks and bal­ances to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion”.

Trump has largely avoided scru­tiny un­der a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress, de­spite a litany of is­sues that have alarmed gov­ern­ment and ethics watch­dogs since he took of­fice.

Among the av­enues Democrats plan to pur­sue are po­ten­tial col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia in the 2016 elec­tion and pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice; Trump’s re­fusal to re­lease his tax re­turns; hush money paid by the pres­i­dent’s for­mer per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen to women who al­leged they had af­fairs with Trump; and the mis­use of tax­payer dol­lars by the Trump cab­i­net.

There are also the pres­i­dent’s busi­ness deal­ings and ef­forts by for­eign coun­tries to in­flu­ence his ad­min­is­tra­tion, as well as the in­creas­ingly blurred lines be­tween Trump’s fam­ily busi­ness and the pub­lic of­fice he now holds.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple have a right to know that their pres­i­dent is work­ing on their be­half, not his fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests,” Adam Schiff, the in­com­ing chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, stated in a re­cent in­ter­view. “Right now, I don’t think any of us can have the con­fi­dence that that’s the case.”

Ar­guably the most grave re­spon­si­bil­ity could fall on the New York rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jer­rold Nadler, the in­com­ing House ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee chair­man. If spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller rec­om­mends charges against Trump in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, any po­ten­tial im­peach­ment hear­ings would oc­cur on Nadler’s watch.

Last month, Nadler said court fil­ings stat­ing that Trump di­rected Co­hen to pay hush money – a vi­o­la­tion of cam­paign fi­nance law that amounts to a fed­eral crime – “would be im­peach­able of­fences”.

Brac­ing him­self for the on­slaught, Trump has threat­ened to re­spond to Democrats with “a war­like pos­ture”.

The al­ready con­tentious cli­mate has cast ma­jor doubts over whether there is any prospect of deal­mak­ing.

Al­though Trump has touted a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture bill and an im­mi­gra­tion com­pro­mise, he has so far demon­strated an­tipa­thy to­ward the leg­isla­tive process.

Donna Ed­wards, a for­mer con­gress­woman from Mary­land, said the most re­al­is­tic strat­egy for Democrats would be to try to strike com­mon ground with the Repub­li­can-led Se­nate and send leg­is­la­tion di­rectly to the pres­i­dent.

“I don’t think they have a choice but to try to work with the pres­i­dent,” she said. “But there’s a limit, and the pres­i­dent goes into all of these ne­go­ti­a­tions [say­ing] ‘my way or the high­way’.”

Jim Man­ley, a long­time Demo­cratic aide, said any sem­blance of co­op­er­a­tion “would re­quire a rad­i­cal shift in the pres­i­dent’s tone and tenor”.

“He made it clear that if Democrats con­duct over­sight, he’s go­ing to refuse to work with them,” said Man­ley, who served as a top aide to the for­mer Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader Harry Reid and the late Sen­a­tor Ted Kennedy.

“No Demo­crat was cowed by that threat then, and no Demo­crat is go­ing to be cowed by that threat now.” SAB­RINA SID­DIQUI IS A PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER FOR GUARDIAN US

MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA

Bat­tle lines House leader Nancy Pelosi with Don­ald Trump and Mike Pence

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