Democrats on virtually every committee in the House of Representatives are ready to take control now that they find themselves in the majority after the midterms.
After nearly a decade in the minority and two years with no power to pursue oversight of the Trump administration, Democrats have prepared themselves to be the ones in charge.
Their biggest concern is that if they pursue Trump administration oversight too aggressively it will hurt their party in the 2020 elections.
Staff level discussions have been taking place for several weeks about how Democratic-led committees would divide the work that needs to be done. For example,
- They will investigate whether the Trump’s family has profited from his presidency.
- They will investigate ethics questions concerning the behavior of his Cabinet secretaries.
- They will investigate Trump policies like family separations along the southern border, as well as the improper use of military troops.
One thing Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic House leaders will be doing is helping each committee coordinate their efforts. They can’t be seen to overreach in their zeal to hold Trump accountable, so investigations must be targeted and must result in tangible results.
Democrats know that attacking every controversy in the Trump administration could backfire politically and their chances of keeping the majority in 2020.
Here are some of the major areas Democrats will investigate when they take control in January:
Trump’s tax returns
A top goal for Democrats has always been to see Trump’s personal tax returns. Nancy Pelosi told the the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board last month that getting those returns is “one of the first things we’d do.”
“Now that they have won the House, Democratic sources on the House Ways and Means Committee have announced that Democrats are going to request Trump’s tax returns.”
Most Americans want to see these returns, and Trump defied norms when he refused to release them during his campaign.
Also, Democrats are prepared for a legal battle to obtain the returns. The new House Ways and Means Chairman will be Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, and he has also said that getting those returns will be one of his highest priorities.
“I think we would all be comfortable if this was done on a voluntary basis,” Neal said. “If they would resist the overture then I think you could probably see a long and grinding court case.”
Contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign
After Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee ended their Russia investigation in March, the committee’s Democrats said they would continue the probe if they took over control. So they now are poised to ramp up the Russia probe in a major way.
He will now have the power to call witnesses and issue subpoenas. He said there are eight areas he wants to investigate, and more than 30 officials that Republicans did not interview.
He also has a list of document requests he plans to send to a large number of companies. He said he would subpoenas numerous senior Trump officials, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has also discussed areas he will want to look into when he takes over as chairman. Nadler said he would like to probe Russian meddling, Michael Cohen’s payments to women, potential obstruction of justice charges, and Trump’s personal and business finances. He also may hold hearings looking into various charges against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Nadler’s committee would be in charge of a potential impeachment process but he has been careful to say he’s not planning to move forward on impeachment yet.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be led by Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings, and he has often said he plans to immediately open hearings on President Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
There will be other areas that Democrats will want to investigate once they take charge. But just the list presented here should be more than enough to keep Donald Trump awake, and to make him realize that a new day has dawned in Washington, D.C., and he can expect from now on that he will be held accountable for everything that he does.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.