rule of law

Trump’s Biggest Wall Is Now the One Blocking Congressional Oversight

The president has a lifetime of experience dodging accountability. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump’s efforts to resist congressional oversight are obstructing more than 20 separate investigations, according to a new analysis by the Washington Post. With the steadfast support of his GOP allies, the president and his administration have blocked or somehow hampered at least 79 requests for information regarding a wide range of issues pertaining to everything from Trump and his family’s businesses’ financial records, to the Mueller report, to immigration policy, to his administration’s handling of security clearances and the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Trump aides have been instructed not to testify or hand over documents, companies have been sued to prevent them from sharing subpoenaed information, and document requests have been ignored, denied, or stalled.

The unprecedented blockade seems to have also flummoxed Democrats. Politico reported on Sunday that House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler is actively weighing the pros and cons of using “inherent contempt” power to fine or jail people for refusing to comply with a subpoena, which hasn’t been done in more than 80 years. That would be a political nightmare in the minds of some Democrats, while others want to be more aggressive against the Trump administration’s obstruction. They, including members of the Judiciary Committee, are anxious to shift from threats to action despite the very real risks of adopting Trump’s all-out war mindset.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, still reportedly thinks that impeaching Trump is too risky politically, and Democratic voters haven’t exactly been clamoring for it either. Then again, impeachment could provide a way for House Democrats to gain the information the Trump administration is denying them. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who has already signaled his willingness to levy large, daily fines on any Trump administration members who don’t comply with House committee subpoenas, suggested on Sunday that Trump may be trying to use the blanket obstruction to force his own impeachment in order to divide Democrats.

After Republicans lost the House of Representatives in November, Trump warned that he would adopt a “war-like posture” if newly reempowered House Democrats used their constitutional authority to investigate him and his administration, boasting that, “they can play that game, but we can play it better.”

Democratic lawmakers have since done what everyone — including the country’s founders — would have expected them to do: their jobs during the most scandal-packed, norm-demolishing U.S. presidency in memory. But Trump and his allies’ response has not just been a war on Democrats, it has been a denial of the very existence of their congressional power. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin articulated as much last week when he denied the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for the IRS to turn over President Trump’s tax returns, claiming the request didn’t serve a “legitimate legislative purpose.” And when the Trump team repeatedly calls Democrats’ attempted oversight unlawful, they may very well be predicting the future in light of the current makeup of the Supreme Court.

But no one really knows how all of this is going to play out, other than the near certainty that the Trump administration will continue to stonewall the House and force everything into what may effectively be court purgatory. Donald Trump has a been a pressure test for America’s system of government since before he was even elected, and that pressure has only continued to build.

Trump’s Biggest Wall Is the One Blocking Oversight