On Tuesday night, Democrats took back the House, ending eight years of Republican dominance of the lower chamber of Congress. As of this writing, not every race has been called and it is not yet clear how large the Democrats’ majority will be, but it is already clear that the Speaker’s gavel, and control of the House investigative committees, will go to them.
President Donald Trump initially tried to act gracious, calling Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi to laud her victory. But true to his style, just hours later he put out a tweet warning Democrats of all-out partisan warfare if they try to investigate him or his administration:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
While the threat is appalling, Trump is absolutely right to be scared: though he has had to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s relentlessly-advancing probe into his ties to Russia for over a year now, and the subsequent indictments and convictions of his associates, that will only be the beginning when Democrats assume control of the House committees, as Adam Davidson writes for The New Yorker:
There are a half dozen House committees that have the power to investigate Trump — Intelligence, Oversight, Ways and Means, and Judiciary, among others. The chair of any committee — always a member of the majority party — has wide latitude to pursue investigations, issue subpoenas, and compel testimony.ADVERTISEMENT
The news for the next year or longer seems likely to be dominated by a steady stream of coverage of the people closest to Trump as they testify before Congress under duress, or under a grant of immunity, or coverage of their refusal to speak at all for fear of incriminating themselves. At the same time, there could be regular reports about what the committee staff has found in subpoenaed records — perhaps Trump’s tax returns, his company’s internal financial documents, the records of his various oligarch partners in the former Soviet Union, and e-mails and other digital messages between Trump’s team and people in Russia.
And there is reason to think that many of these lines of investigation will yield damning information. Last month, a New York Times investigation into just a handful of Trump’s tax returns from the 90s revealed a complicated scheme of “outright fraud” to evade paying taxes on his father’s estate.
The bottom line is that Trump is facing a new and formidable apparatus of accountability — and even he knows how badly this could end for him.