Democrats are like hypochondriacs who fear right-wing backlash instead of illness. After winning back the House last fall, the party didn’t even wait to take power before it started wringing its hands about overusing it. “The American people will understand thoughtful, well-grounded investigations,” Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes said in late November. “But they will bridle at investigations that seem overtly political.”
Since taking ownership of the House Oversight Committee this year, Democrats have dragged their feet in pursuing the president’s tax returns, and worked to snuff out talk of Donald Trump’s impeachment. Now, they have convinced themselves that they cannot investigate Donald Trump Jr. — because the public would never forgive them for going after a figure so sympathetic and relatable.
Or so this new story from Politico suggests. On Wednesday night, the outlet reported that “Democrats see potential pitfalls in dragging Trump’s adult children into their political squabbles with the president.”
“Getting to family members I think is dangerous,” Gerry Connolly, a senior Democrat on the Oversight Committee, told Politico. “Only because it gets real personal, real fast. And it risks backfiring.”
But the article later clarifies that the controversy isn’t about Trump’s adult children per se. The Democrats seem to all agree that Ivanka is fair game, since she is a White House official. Meanwhile, Eric is largely irrelevant. And Tiffany is, as (tragically) usual, an afterthought. So, what the party is really fretting about is whether looking into the president’s eldest son — whom Michael Cohen just accused, under oath, of involvement in illegal hush-money payments — would make things too “personal.”
[M]any House Democrats are urging caution when it comes to Trump’s adult children who do not serve in the government. Kushner and Ivanka Trump both serve as senior advisers to the president and are subject to congressional scrutiny like any government official.
“We have to distinguish members of the Trump family who are actually in the government or playing public roles from those who are not,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Oversight Committee, said in an interview. “As for Trump family members who are not members of the administration or taking decision-making roles, they should only be called if there’s a compelling reason that goes to questions of public importance and public policy.”
Fearing public backlash for investigating Ivanka — Trump’s most telegenic and media-savvy child — is neurotic. Having such fears about going after Don Jr. is straight-up bonkers: We are talking about a preternaturally oily trust-fund kid whose favorite hobbies including murdering elephants, likening migrants to zoo animals, and mocking the genocide of Native Americans.
This is the one member of the Trump campaign who is on record saying that he “loved” the idea of cooperating with a Kremlin plot to elect his father. The man is a private citizen in name only — Don Jr. comports himself as a surrogate for the Trump administration on a near daily basis, even though, as a top executive at the president’s private company, he had once promised to keep his distance from the White House. And, beyond all this, Michael Cohen just (ostensibly) implicated the guy in federal crimes!
All of which is to say: Don Jr. is both a totally legitimate target of congressional oversight, and one of the least sympathetic figures in American public life. The fact that Democrats have found a way to believe that giving a more racist, less charming version of Gob Bluth a hard time will alienate suburban moderates would be impressive if it weren’t so pathetic.
Humanity’s long-term survival depends on this party summoning the courage to take on the world’s most powerful industry. And it can’t even dredge up the nerve to take on the less likeable and accomplished Donald Trump.