A change to House rules will greatly help Democratic investigations of President Trump and his administration, according to a new report from The Hill.
The change allows staff of House committees to conduct interviews of witnesses under oath without any members of Congress present. This frees up the time of legislators to do other work while their staff depose the many witnesses in their investigations.
In short, the new rule means many more witnesses can be interviewed under oath, and the House will be able to conduct its investigations into Trump and his crimes at a much faster rate.
It is expected that Trump will try to stop special counsel Mueller’s report from being given to House investigators. This means the investigations must move very rapidly to make up for lost time over the past two years when the GOP was in charge.
These investigations will be a source of anxiety — and legal jeopardy — for the White House. And the new rule will certainly make things worse for the president and his staff as they begin to focus on his 2020 reelection.
“It’s more teeth, faster legs, longer breath, greater strength and just bigger,” said Steven Cash, a former legal counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The other thing it signals is this isn’t the political theater of the Benghazi hearings. They’re not really interested in what comes out on television. They want sworn testimony. That indicates to me they’re looking for facts and not show,” added Cash, a lawyer specializing in criminal and national security law.
Tension has been building between House Democrats and the president since the November midterm elections. Now Democrats are in control of all House oversight and investigative powers.
Since election day Democrats have been planning broad and thorough investigations into the Trump administration. They will investigate everything from Russia’s election interference to the White House security clearance process to Trump’s own financial dealings, including his alleged money laundering deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s an enormous backlog of oversight that needs to be done since the previous Congress — as you know — did very little oversight,” a Democratic aide told The Hill when asked about the reason for the rule change.
The change will allow committees to increase the pace of their investigations since they will no longer be constrained by lawmakers’ schedules.
“The new rule will increase the speed, the efficiency and the punch of investigations,” said Jack Sharman, former special counsel to Congress for the Whitewater investigation. “If you remove the member-present requirement, then that reduces a lot of the logistical drag on the investigation.”
After taking power on January 3, House Democrats wasted no time in announcing new Trump probes.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in late January launched an investigation into the White House security clearance process.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) last week announced his committee’s extensive Russia probe.
Both committees will need to use staff to conduct the depositions of the large number of witnesses they intend to call to testify under oath.
The House investigations threaten Trump’s presidency and are guaranteed to be a thorn in his side throughout his expected 2020 campaign. The president must deal with fallout from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe as well.
Despite attacks from Trump, Democrats have shown no signs of being intimidated or deterred in their work to bring accountability to Washington.
A new era of accountability and oversight has dawned in the nation’s capital, and the new House rule on investigations will play a big part in making sure that Donald Trump, his associates, and his family do not escape justice.