NEWS WEBSITE Axios reported Aug. 26 that Republicans are “getting ready for hell” in the form of wide-ranging congressional investigations of President Trump should the Democrats take the House in November. That is one way to describe the legislative branch finally taking its oversight responsibilities seriously.
The full spreadsheet is not public. But the highlights would not incite fear among self-respecting members of Congress. They would compel lawmakers to switch on hearing-room lights and order staff to start digging. Every reported item on the list should already be the subject of sustained congressional inquiry. Some of them should have produced new laws. Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, in violation of a norm respected for decades, should have resulted in a new requirement that all major-party presidential nominees disclose their tax records. The president’s refusal to dissolve his interest in his sprawling private business and his continual insistence that conflict-of-interest rules do not apply to him should have spurred a new round of government ethics legislation. Though lawmakers have taken some initial steps to shore up election security and to punish the Kremlin for its 2016 meddling, more ambitious legislation should have passed first thing last year, instead of continuing to languish.
If the spreadsheet seems shockingly long, that is because the Trump administration’s behavior has been unusually erratic and suspicious. The sizable list of legitimate matters requiring investigation underscores that the GOP Congress has largely abdicated its responsibility to oversee the executive branch at a time when oversight is more necessary than it has been since the Nixon years.
Yet, instead of serving a reminder of shirked responsibility, the spreadsheet appears to be intended to raise alarms that House Republicans might no longer be able to protect the president from reasonable congressional inquiries. That mind-set says all one needs to know about the quality of this Congress.
Alexandra Petri: The long list of Trump scandals and why we haven’t gotten around to looking into them