But Democrats may take other steps to try to impose oversight. And the question of how to tackle what they see as Trump’s growing lawlessness has become more difficult as former Trump national security assistant John Bolton raised a series of staggering allegations of Trump’s abuse of power by the service of your reelection. That controversy was compounded by the abrupt dismissal of the weekend by Attorney General William Barr from the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, who has overseen several Trump-related investigations.
The caucus is not as fragmented as it was in the pre-Trump impeachment, but while some members want an aggressive response from Congress, House Democrats say there should be limits.
“We are only a few weeks away, less than 20 weeks from the election, and we need to focus on winning,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Adding: “We don’t need to get bogged down” in another impeachment. “
“I think we should hold hearings and bring as much information to the public as possible between now and forever. But I don’t think we should go any further, “added Cleaver.
In short, Democrats are balancing the desperate desire to defend institutions that they say are being threatened by Trump with the concern that a push to investigate will detract from other pressing national concerns and potentially undermine his own political perspectives, and in Ultimately it could be useless with the choice. A few months away.
House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House of Representatives, did not play down the need to listen to Barr and Bolton, but also recognized the difficult reality of going through the courts to make comply with citations or other measures before November.
“It is a long and tortuous process,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. “The choice is coming. We have about four months before that happens. And, in practical terms, it is frankly not possible to take a court case that fast. “
Hoyer is not alone. Many Democrats in the caucus have “impeachment fatigue,” as one senior aide put it. And while all Democrats say they want to hold the President accountable, they also don’t want to lose sight of the ultimate goal: getting Trump out of the White House. Meanwhile, some of their decisions may be made for them, as the Supreme Court evaluates cases that could overburden long-held investigations, or exhaust their energies entirely.
Not everyone is content to wait until Election Day and hope that former Vice President Joe Biden denies Trump a second term. Some Democratic lawmakers and advisers prefer to use their bullhorn to highlight administration scandals every day in the run-up to the election, reasoning that doing so will appeal to voters, not repel them.
The division spoke out Monday when the lawmaker and aides grappled with the possibility of issuing a subpoena for Barr, who has avoided testifying before the Judiciary Committee since it was confirmed in early 2019. Some Democrats on the committee had been demanding a subpoena during weeks, but President Jerry Nadler said the fight would not be worth months of litigation.
However, Barr’s effort to remove Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, prompted President Nancy Pelosi and Nadler to rethink the matter. After the two spoke over the weekend, Nadler began the subpoena process on Monday.
The move caught other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee by surprise after Nadler’s team indicated they were unwilling to subpoena Barr during a heated call to staff earlier in the day.
Barr’s conduct will again be the focus on Wednesday, when the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing with testimony from two acting Justice Department officials who plan to allege political interference by senior Justice Department officials, including Barr. One of them, prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, told the committee in written testimony that he and three colleagues were pressured to recommend a light sentence for former Trump partner Roger Stone, who was convicted last year of repeatedly lying to the Intelligence Committee. of the House and intimidate a witness. to prevent an ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
And lawmakers still hope to pressure Barr on his role in federal security officials’ decision to use force, including tear gas and blast grenades, against peaceful protesters on White House street earlier this month, only moments before Trump’s decision to hold a photo shoot in front of the nearby Episcopal Church of San Juan.
Despite media attention to Berman’s firing and Bolton’s book, top Democrats have focused more on this year’s agenda: a police reform bill on the floor this week and a bill of massive infrastructure on the next floor. And any comments on Trump, Democratic campaign officials say, must be in line with the party’s message about health care.
Representative Cheri Bustos, who heads the Democratic Congress Campaign Committee, sent a memo to vulnerable members this week urging them to focus on Trump’s other headline-grabbing move over the weekend: his claim at a rally in Tulsa. , Oklahoma, which has sought to slow down coronavirus testing amid a dizzying number of cases. The note did not mention the other scandals that haunt Trump. That reflects Democrats’ focus for 2018, when they focused on Republican legislation to repeal Obamacare and strip millions of their health insurance.
The Trump scandals also did not appear Monday in a general meeting, and Pelosi mentioned the possibility of quoting Barr only “in passing” in a private leadership call later in the evening, according to Democrats in both calls.
Even some of the caucus’ most prominent liberal voices, many of whom fiercely advocated for the recall, are pushing for a more measured approach now.
“I think there are certainly things to be gained by continuing to get people to testify,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), co-chair of the Progressive Congress Committee and a member of the judicial panel.
But Jayapal, like several other Democratic lawmakers and aides interviewed for this story, did not explicitly endorse the deployment of subpoenas or other crackdowns to compel the testimony of some of Trump’s closest current and former advisers.
Who are the best people to tell that story? Unfortunately, there are a lot of options, and I think we have to look at the whole picture and figure out what makes the most sense, “he said.
For many Democrats, even the most fervent supporters of accusing Trump, the shrinking calendar is their dominant reality now.
The election is fast approaching and Trump continues to generate an almost relentless stream of bad headlines, all on his own, without the help of Democrats. Also, by giving some attention to Trump, Democrats say they are denying the struggling President an obstacle to dealing.
“We are at the same disadvantage of the last 3 and a half years. He absorbs all the oxygen in the room, ”said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). “In terms of sending a message, we don’t have many opportunities to do it.”
The internal dispute over how to face Trump is far less of a frantic division than it was in the run-up to the impeachment. Democrats in the House of Representatives have been forced to turn their attention elsewhere, as the coronavirus claimed tens of thousands of lives and devastated the economy, and the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer engulfed the country. in a heartbreaking debate about race and the police.
And at least some of the “front-line” Democrats, those facing tough reelection fights, are voicing their support for Trump’s robust oversight of the alleged transgressions. Representative Tom Malinowski (DN.J.), who was also one of the first supporters of the indictment, said his constituents understand the need to control possible abuses.
“It is never a problem for me to uphold the rule of law as long as we also take care of health care and infrastructure and help people survive Covid-19,” he said. “That is not a difficult argument to make.”
The thorniest question for lawmakers is how to handle the allegations brought by Bolton, whose new White House report suggests that Trump, among other possible abuses, pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy American agricultural products from crucial states for Trump’s reelection. Bolton also alleges that Trump promised to influence US prosecutors to do favors for foreign autocrats.
But House Democrats also have little affection for Bolton, who angered the committee last year when he declined to testify in the impeachment investigation of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic opponents.
Now, however, Bolton has publicly stated the details of the House investigation and has made even more damaging allegations. Democrats have struggled for the past week over whether to seek Bolton’s sworn testimony once again, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said: “I don’t think we should wait” if the book calls for further investigation.
“Much of this is not a surprise, but at the same time, exposing this president’s misconduct is the best way to protect the country,” Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “Congress can take steps to protect the country.”
House investigative decisions may depend in part on an impending Supreme Court decision on whether lawmakers can access Trump’s tax returns or personal financial data from his banks or accountants. The court ruling in that case could arm the House with a wealth of new information suggesting conflicts of interest between Trump and the countries with which he is pursuing foreign policy.
And there’s another looming problem: Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone is slated to go to prison on June 30 for his conviction for repeatedly lying to Congress during his investigation of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election.
Trump has strongly suggested that a pardon or commutation will occur, which will surely infuriate Democrats who have tried any measure to protect Stone from criminal consequences as a possible obstruction of justice.
Whether Congress can secure the testimony of key figures from the Trump administration in all of these fights is a difficult challenge for the House, but whether at least making the attempt is up to them.
“I think it is our duty,” said Malinowski. “If the administration refuses to allow people to testify, I don’t think it’s good to maintain the right long-term balance between the branches of our government for Congress to say, whatever it is, it’s not worth fighting for.”