It must have been something in the D.C. water. Last Wednesday, Democrats on Capitol Hill announced three separate probes into President Trump’s past and present. Within hours, the House Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for the full, unredacted Mueller report including supporting documents and underlying evidence; the House Ways and Means Committee issued a formal request to the IRS and Treasury Department for six years Trump’s personal and business tax returns; and the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it will subpoena ten years of Trump’s business records from his accounting firm.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Politico quoted a senior Democratic aide on Capitol Hill as saying the three-pronged investigative assault was “accidental.” “The fact that we’re doing them is significant,” the aide said, “but the fact that we’re doing them on the same day is not.”
Balderdash. Democrats took back the House of Representatives for a reason: the first two years of the Trump administration saw the Republican controlled congress exercising zero oversight of Trump’s scandal-ridden rule.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was running around Washington with a bloated security detail turning on flashing blue lights and sirens on his official cars so he could make dinner reservations on time; traveling in first class and chartering jets; and leasing a condo from lobbyists with clients regulated by the EPA. Facing investigations by pretty much everyone in Washington but the Republican controlled congress, he resigned in disgrace.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was chartering jets, deregulating protections on rare birds and animals, and playing footsie with oil and gas companies while he was reducing the size of several national monuments and opening them to oil exploration. Under investigation by his own department inspector general, Zinke resigned in disgrace.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was flying around the country on private and military jets, investing in medical stocks regulated by his own department, and supporting efforts to privatize Medicare. Price was forced out after yet another investigation by his own department’s inspector general, who found he wasted more than $341,000 on private and military jets.
Think any Republican-controlled committees on Capitol Hill showed any interest in holding hearings on these three scam artists? Think again. The Trump administration had a record number of firings and resignations in its first two years, with more than 45 people leaving their positions under one kind of cloud or another, according to The New York Times. But the Republican-led congress stood mute.
Those days are gone. Trump and his administration are such a target-rich environment, congressional committees run by Democrats will be on waiting lists for rooms where they can hold hearings.
The House Judiciary Committee has already been busy. In addition to authorizing subpoenas for the Muller report, Congressman Jerold Nadler’s committee sent out 81 letters last month seeking information for a broad investigation into White House corruption, obstruction of justice and abuse of power, according to a report in The New York Times. The targets of the Judiciary investigation include “government agencies, presidential advisers, Trump business and political associates, the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign and inaugural committee,” according to the Times.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee, now chaired by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, will be looking into whether campaign finance laws were violated when Trump authorized a payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels near the end of the 2016 presidential campaign to buy her silence. The committee has already heard from Trump fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen about Trump’s lies surrounding the Stormy Daniels payment. And this week, Cohen announced that he has contacted congressional committees about a hard drive he discovered which contains something like 14 million files concerning potential misdeeds and crimes by Trump. In a letter to the congressional committees, Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said the hard drive contains emails, voice recordings, images, and other attachments from his various computers and cell phones.
Also on the oversight committee’s radar is the recent abuse of White House security clearance procedures revealed by a whistleblower earlier this week. Trump has been accused of personally ordering security clearances for his daughter and son-in-law despite findings by security professionals that neither met the standard necessary to be granted access to top secrets.
Cummings’ committee will doubtlessly be looking into security procedures at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago after the arrest of Yujing Zhang this week as she tried to gain access to the presidential retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. The Chinese native was taken into custody by the Secret Service after she was discovered trying to enter Mar-a-Lago carrying two passports, four cell phones, and a thumb drive containing computer malware. Security at Mar-a-Lago has been a concern since early in the Trump administration when a guest took cell phone photos of Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussing North Korea nuclear capabilities at a dinner in the resort’s public dining room.
The House Intelligence Committee, led by Congressman Adam Schiff, has announced multiple investigations into whether the Trump campaign was the target of a Russian intelligence operation during the 2016 presidential campaign. Schiff has also indicated that the committee will be looking into the Moscow Trump tower project, and has called Michael Cohen and Felix Slater, a convicted felon and FBI informant, both of whom worked on the project during Trump’s campaign. Schiff’s committee is also working with the House Financial Services Committee in seeking documents from Deutsche Bank as they look into money laundering by the bank in connection with the Trump Organization.
The Intelligence Committee has joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee in requesting from the White House all recordings, transcripts, documents and other communications between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Republican-led committees showed zero interest in the first two years of the Trump administration when it was revealed that Trump had met privately with Putin several times with only translators in attendance. One meeting between the two leaders wasn’t even attended by Trump’s translator, so the only witness was Putin’s personal translator.
During the Obama administration, Republicans spent millions on investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails and her connections to the attack on an American State Department outpost in Benghazi, Libya. They weren’t exactly shy about why. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was quoted in the midst of the Democratic primary for president in 2015 bragging about how they had targeted Clinton. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy told Fox News. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”
Now Trump congressional allies are accusing Democrats of “weaponizing” congressional investigations into the Trump White House and his taxes and businesses.
It’s about damn time.