During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Donald Trump seemed to warn House Democrats not to investigate him, claiming it could hurt the economy.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said.
He continued: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
All this is par for the course from Trump, who’s long portrayed investigations into himself or his administration as purely political tools rather than serving any legitimate oversight purpose.
House Democrats, naturally, view things quite differently. Their newly installed committee chairs believe their Republican predecessors neglected their oversight duties — and have ambitious plans for subpoena-powered investigations into the president’s finances, Russian interference, and administration ethics scandals, and much more.
Trump is already swamped by executive branch investigations and a host of other legal threats. So he’s laying the groundwork to try and portray new House Democratic probes as politically motivated, sure to scuttle potential bipartisan legislation, and even economically dangerous. But he can do little to stop them from happening.
Trump is trying to characterize all oversight attempts as political hackery
Through the first two years of Trump’s administration, Democrats were immensely frustrated that Republican congressional majorities wouldn’t investigate a great deal of seeming malfeasance.
For instance, the GOP had no interest in getting ahold of Trump’s tax returns or digging into how his business might be inappropriately intermingled with the presidency. They didn’t care much about a host of ethics and corruption scandals involving administration officials like former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. And the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference into the election seemed designed mainly to protect Trump.
Up until now, Democrats couldn’t really do anything about all this, because only the majority party in each chamber of Congress effectively has subpoena power. But, Democrats have a House majority and the subpoena power that comes with it — and Trump, it seems, is nervous.
Now, it is certainly true that congressional investigations of the president or the administration can be quite politicized. While they all have the stated purpose of investigating potential corruption or exposing possible wrongdoing, in practice many such probes are used as political weapons — to dig for information that could damage the other party, or to just make certain people look bad.
Indeed, back in 2015, then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy outright bragged that the GOP’s endless series of Benghazi investigations had damaged Hillary Clinton politically.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” McCarthy said on Fox News. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
But of course, it’s also quite possible for such investigations to be handled professionally, and to surface legitimately important information about an administration.
By warning Democrats that their investigations could damage the economy, Trump seems to be trying to dismiss all attempts at legitimate oversight investigations, lumping them all with political hackery intended only to damage him — much as he has done in his criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.