In an increasingly desperate effort to deny transparency to voters and Congress, President Trump has reduced himself to laughable claims.
He whined on Twitter on Thursday morning:
Alas, it was not so long ago that House Republicans spent weeks and months investigating the Internal Revenue Service, Benghazi, “Fast and Furious” and a host of other issues. He continued to complain that Democrats were going “nuts” and that all this is nothing more than “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” (the all-caps are supposed to signify segment titles for Sean Hannity, perhaps?).
None of this works, of course. The Post reports: “The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Thursday morning to give its chairman the authority to subpoena testimony from [acting attorney general Matt] Whitaker should he fail to show or answer questions during Friday’s hearing.” Meanwhile, lawmakers introduced legislation that would require the report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation to be released directly to Congress, as this ad by Republicans for the Rule of Law explains:
Meanwhile, Trump’s outbursts have no perceptible impact on the House’s business.
At her news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) swatted away his bellyaching complaints. She touted the ongoing congressional hearings on topics such as transportation, guns, health care and more — in addition to congressional oversight hearings. (It’s a reminder how much substantive work is done on Capitol Hill that gets minimal coverage absent a scandal involving the administration.)
Pelosi expressed confidence in the appropriators to devise a border solution to come to a “fair conclusion,” ignoring Trump’s demands and ultimatums. She also voiced support to reclaim congressional authority on trade.
Asked about Trump’s complaints, she said: “I am not commenting on what the president has to say about our work. ... He is projecting his own unruliness.” She added, “We will not surrender our constitutional responsibility for oversight. That would make us delinquent in our duties” and noted that the public wants to see Trump’s tax returns. ("They want the truth,” she remarks.) She said it had to be done “in a careful way,” however. On the Green New Deal, she recalled her own work on climate change during her first speakership and welcomed the “enthusiasm.”
In other words, Trump can rail all he likes, presumably to convince his low-information base that the president of the world’s only superpower is a pitiful victim. The House strategy in response is twofold: Keep moving forward on policy initiatives (which Pelosi tries to highlight with a mention of “jobs, jobs, jobs” while describing any initiative, including on infrastructure or green energy) and let committees do their work. In both cases, Trump’s huffing and puffing become irrelevant.
He has no feasible, specific agenda of his own and the Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems in all things to default to inertness. That leaves Pelosi and House Democrats driving the agenda. Her hope — and so far it is working — is to let fact-finding hearings tied to potential legislation and oversight hearings proceed on parallel tracks. Trump can whine all he likes, but whining isn’t governing, and it’s increasingly pathetic.