The House is the only governmental body with the power and will to expose Trump’s corruption. Unfortunately, the other institutions that were supposed to hold a corrupt president accountable have protected him instead. The attorney general, America’s chief law enforcement officer, has run an interference campaign to protect Trump from accountability. Lawyers at the White House and Office of Management and Budget have rendered legal opinions enabling presidential actions that the independent Government Accountability Office have found to be unlawful, and that constitutional scholars on the left and right have said are dangerous and unprecedented.
The refusal of Republican leaders in the Senate to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney turned the Senate impeachment trial into a farce.
Even the senior Republicans who some thought could be counted on to uphold the integrity of their institution instead adopted a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” posture toward a president they fear.
Trump’s corruption and disregard for the rule of law permeates his administration, as the Ukraine investigation revealed. It is incumbent upon the House to redouble its efforts to hold the administration accountable and to inform the American people of the laws being trampled and the norms of good governance being eviscerated.
Based on everything we know about him, Trump is likely to see the Senate’s capitulation as a permission slip to use his time in office to benefit himself financially and politically — and might seek foreign help to do so.
What should House Democrats do?
First, let the oversight committees get back to basics. During the impeachment process, a number of House committees went largely quiet. Now they should aggressively pursue unfinished business, including addressing Trump’s efforts to take away health-care protections for people with preexisting conditions and to raid the U.S. military budget to fund his useless wall at the southern border.
Second, complete the story that the Senate Republican leadership wanted to spike. The House majority should expose the Senate impeachment trial for what it was — a coverup — by subpoenaing witnesses such as Bolton, Mulvaney, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The public is entitled to hear their testimony in an official setting — there is much still to learn. The public also is yet to hear from former White House counsel Donald McGahn about Trump’s possible obstruction efforts. Many of the most important figures, including Bolton, Parnas and McGahn, have said they are willing to testify if given the opportunity.
Third, thoroughly investigate Trump and his cronies to determine whether they have misused their offices for personal gain. Pay-for-play opportunities appear to be rampant in the Trump administration. Coal magnate Robert E. Murray, the founder of Murray Energy, “has donated $1.4 million to Trump and related super PACs,” according to NBC News. Shortly after Trump took office in 2017, Murray presented the new administration with what the New York Times termed a “wish list” of regulations he wanted to see rolled back. The Times said in 2018, “Nearly a year later, the White House and federal agencies have completed or are on track to fulfill most of the 16 detailed requests.” That includes the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and attacking mercury standards.
On Friday, news broke that Environmental Protection Agency chief of staff Ryan Jackson — who has already been admonished by the EPA inspector general for defying investigations — is leaving the agency to join the National Mining Association. The news came just a week after the administration announced cutbacks on federal protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, a move that was a top priority for the NMA, which spent $3.5 million on lobbying related to the effort. Jackson’s new position, as the NMA’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, had the hallmarks of a reward for a job well done.
After three years of scandal and investigations, many might feel the best thing to do is to move on. But robust oversight is critical to ensuring that the American people know the extent of Trump’s corruption and to deterring Trump from further damaging democratic institutions. The House is the last line of defense.