What Will Democrats Investigate With Control Of The House? There's A Lot
It's been a couple of months since the midterm elections, but the new congressional class is about to take up their posts in the House and the Senate on Jan. 3. With a Democratic majority now in the House, there's one big question on everyone's mind: what will Democrats investigate when they take control of the House? There's a laundry list of things they could look at.
In the November 2018 midterm elections, Democrats managed to gain 40 seats in the House, which now gives them the ability to exercise their investigating powers, as they'll control House committees. They'll have the opportunity to look into a number of things that Democrats have felt were insufficiently examined, including the president's finances, the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, and possible collusion with Russia. Given that with control of the House committees they also have subpoena power — meaning they can demand testimony — get ready for a wild ride. Even before the new members were sworn in, legislators were promising to take on some major issues.
When might it start? It's hard to say, but I wouldn't gamble on a wait. Here are the things to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks and months.
Possible Collusion with Russia
A good jumping off point for Democrats might be a look into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. While the investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is ongoing, Congress had its own, now-shuttered, investigation. In March, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee closed their investigation into possible Russian collusion on the grounds that they found no evidence, according to NBC News. But with a Democrat-controlled House, the investigation could be reopened.
Apparently, that's something that's on the table. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who will take over as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC News that the House is definitely going to look into what the Republicans found and the alleged "work that the GOP obstructed on [their] committee." Schiff added that the House Intelligence Committee will first comb through the Mueller investigation's findings either "via indictment or via report" and then decide where to go from there. While Mueller is reportedly still in the process of writing a final report and not all of the investigation's findings have been made public, that may be something that House Democrats would like to see happen.
Possible Obstruction of Justice
Tied into a deeper look at Mueller's investigation, the Democrats also might investigate whether Trump obstructed justice in any way in regards to the Russia investigation. After Trump fired James Comey in May 2017, the former FBI director alleged that Trump had asked him to interfere in an investigation regarding National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, asking Comey if he could "see [his] way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go." A representative for Trump has publicly denied that any conversation happened. Flynn was being investigated for his ties to Russian officials ahead of the Trump presidency, and in December 2017, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Trump also repeatedly publicly berated his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, which is reported to be a subject of interest for Mueller. The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment on the subject to Elite Daily at the time.
Trump also allegedly ordered Mueller to be fired — twice. Elite Daily reached out to the White House at the time for comment, but did not immediately hear back. Schiff, the incoming top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Washington Post in a Dec. 4, 2018 statement that Trump's tweets add to "a growing body of evidence that the President is attempting to obstruct justice,” hinting that the subject is of interest.
Schiff added that the Democrats will make sure that Mueller is able to carry out his investigation "without political interference" and that "all acts of obstruction" will be "exposed either by Mueller in his report or by the Congress."
Trump's Tax Returns
Traditionally, presidential nominees make their tax returns public while on the campaign trail, but Trump refused to do so, nor did he offer them up when he took office. According to CNN, House Ways and Means Committee — the chief tax writing committee in the House — Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the only Congressman with the power to get Trump's returns because the committee is allowed to ask the Treasury Department for tax information, plans to formally ask for the tax returns by making the case to the public that Trump's tax returns would allow them to more clearly see where his interests are. A source reportedly told CNN that that the Ways and Means Committee intends to hold a hearing as soon as January to start legislation mandating that all presidential nominees make three years of tax returns public.
It may take some time, though. A spokesperson for Neal told Politico on Jan. 2 that it may not happen until February. "He wants to lay out a case about why presidents should be disclosing their tax returns before he formally forces him to do it," said spokesperson Dan Rubin.
Trump's Finances (In General)
Democrats, come Jan. 3, will also have the ability to look into just how blurry the lines are between the Trump business holdings and the presidency, and whether Trump's business relationships with foreign officials have any effect or sway on his political office. According to The New York Times, Democrats are likely to have the Committee on the Judiciary and the Oversight Committee do a deep dive into whether there have been any violations of the Constitution's emoluments clause, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting any sorts of gifts from a foreign state or any of its officials. While no Democrat has said specifically that they intend to dive into any possible violations of the clause, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who will chair the House Financial Services Committee, said in November that she will back House investigation into all of Trump's finances.
The possible violations don't just extend to money and a look into Trump holdings. Also in the line of fire is the a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian officials offering up dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the circumstances of which Trump Jr. admitted in a tweet. Dirt on an opponent in a presidential race could be considered a gift, especially if going by Federal Elections Commission (FED) standards that prohibit any "contribution or donation of money or other thing of value." Other "things of value" may include things like dirt on an opponent.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Massachusetts, the vice-ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary who also sits on the Oversight Committee, told The New York Times in November that the Trump business dealings are the "Achilles' heel of the administration." Raskin added that the Trumps "have turned the government of the United States into a moneymaking operation." While he did not reveal to the Times whether he will investigate, he did call it the "opposite of constitutional design" and he does sit on the two committees with the power to investigate.
As of June 27, 2018, more than 200 interest groups that include foreign governments and corporations have stayed at Trump's Washington hotel since he was elected president in 2016, according to ABC News.
The Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh
The Kavanaugh saga isn't over. Before being confirmed to the Supreme Court in October, three women — Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump's Supreme Court pick — all of which he denied. Elite Daily reached out to representatives of Kavanaugh for further comment at the time, but did not hear back. The allegations rocked the nomination process for the federal judge, and resulted in a fiery hearing before the Senate in which both Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh himself offered testimony regarding Blasey Ford's allegations. Through the process, Blasey Ford, as well as several prominent Democrats, requested a thorough investigation into her allegations.
The FBI eventually conducted a "limited in scope" investigation into the allegation against Kavanaugh. Their report was sent to the White House to review, which found no evidence of wrongdoing. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on the report, but did not immediately hear back. Representatives for Kavanaugh declined to comment on the report. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court on Saturday, Oct. 6.
However, in October, Democrats promised that should they win the house, they will open an investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh. Rep. Jerrod Nadler of New York, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, told The New York Times that if the House turns over to the Democrats, they will be sure to subpoena the records from the FBI's investigation as well as all communication made between the bureau and the White House. Nadler added that Democrats would be sure to interview individuals who were not part of the FBI investigation, including Kavanaugh as well as other alleged witnesses.
The Democrats have a laundry list of things they can and probably will investigate once they are sworn in on Jan. 3. Nadler said in a Nov. 6 tweet that Americans want "accountability from their government" and Trump "may not like it, but his and his administration will be held accountable."
It's pretty clear that the new House has their hands full. I hope they have some comfortable shoes on.