As Nancy Pelosi made abundantly clear before her party wrested control of the House on Tuesday, the Democrats will waste little time before they “let the subpoenas fly” after taking control of the House in January. So many potential investigation threads have been reported in the media, that it can be difficult to keep track. We already know that Democrats are planning to investigate Trump’s ties to his business and whether he profited off foreign dignitaries. Trump’s tax returns are expected to be targeted (Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee could invoke an arcane Congressional rule to force the IRS to hand over Trump’s returns), and – of course – his mysterious ties with Russia. And who could forget the FBI’s handling of the expanded Kavanaugh background check, where Democrats suspect that the White House and/or Senate Republicans interceded to exclude certain key “witnesses” (none of whom are believed to have actually witnessed Kavanaugh sexually assault women).
Well, to this list we can add a couple more possibilities. Because in an interview with Axios’ new HBO Sunday politics show, incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff revealed that Dems are planning to extensively investiagate whether Trump’s blood feud with the US media drove him to commit potentially illegal acts. For starters, they’re planning to investigate Trump’s crackdown on the press following his White House briefing room battle with CNN’s Jim Acosta (which resulted in Acosta having his credentials revoked), his efforts to browbeat the Postmaster General into raising shipping rates on Amazon packages (in an effort to get back at the Washington Post), and any role he might have played in the DOJ’s decision to try and stop the merger of Time Warner and AT&T (Time Warner owns CNN).
House Democrats plan to investigate whether President Trump abused White House power by targeting – and trying to punish with “instruments of state power” – The Washington Post and CNN, incoming House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said in an interview for “Axios on HBO.”
Continuing with the press freedom theme, Schiff suggested that Trump’s blood feud with Amazon is grounded in his hatred of the Washington Post, and that Trump has sought to economically punish Amazon as payback for its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Post.
“This appears to be an effort by the president to use the instruments of state power to punish Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post,” Schiff said. Jeff Bezos is founder, chairman and CEO of Amazon, and owns the Washington Post.
And then there’s CNN:
2) Schiff said Congress also need to examine whether Trump attempted to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner as payback to CNN.
“We don’t know, for example, whether the effort to hold up the merger of the parent of CNN was a concern over antitrust, or whether this was an effort merely to punish CNN,” Schiff said.
While wildfires burn through his home state, Schiff has apparently been busy this weekend rushing from one interview to the next. In a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press,” Schiff elaborated on the Democrats’ plans for “holding Trump accountable” after offering a token criticism about Trump’s “callous” tweet about the California wildfires…
“Trump…is only the president, I think in his view, of those who voted for him. The rest, he could care less.”
…Schiff immediately moved on to discussing several of the many threads that the House Intel Committee will be pursuing in its quest to hold Trump accountable for whatever the scandal du jour is…This week, it’s possible conflicts involving Trump’s acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker.
Whitaker isn’t legally required to recuse himself from the Russia probe (though there might be broader constitutional issues surrounding his appointment that Schiff, for whatever reason, didn’t want to get into), but the acting attorney general would do well to remember that the Democrats are planning to stick to him like white on rice…and that any slip-up – however minor – will immediately face searing public scrutiny.
“If he doesn’t recuse himself if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe…we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he’s doing anything to interfere with the probe…Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer and that any role that he plays will be exposed to the public.”
Moving away from the Democratic investigations for a second, Chuck Todd pointed out that the popularity of the Mueller probe has waned over the last year (as we’ve pointed out, opinion polling shows that even Democrats no longer care about Russia), and asked Schiff for his take on what’s driving this trend. Schiff’s explanation? Because Mueller has been in a blackout period for the last two months (though public confidence in Mueller’s probe had been in decline long before the pre-election blackout period began).
“Around the time that he produces indictments and more he produces convictions…support for his probe goes up. When he issues his report or if there are further indictments, you will see public confidence in his work again rise.”
All of this contributes to the growing body of evidence that President Trump had a point when he complained about “election fatigue” earlier this week. With that in mind, Todd asked, how are the Democrats planning to prioritize their investigations? Schiff assured him that the Democrats’ policy objectives won’t be buried by a flurry of investigations.
But while this sounds like a sensible strategy on its face, there are reasons to doubt Schiff’s intentions. Because Democrats would like the public to believe that it’s to their benefit to leave no stone unturned while investigating Trump and his administration. But in one of his last comments before the end of the interview, Schiff might have inadvertently exposed his party’s ulterior motive. Investigations, Schiff said, are “sexy.” While health-care policy…not so much.
“Let’s face it: the investigations are sexy, they’re interesting…the legislative process is less so, but nonetheless important to the American people. We are going to need to ruthlessly prioritize on the Intel Committee…and we are doing that now.”
The interview with Schiff begins at the 35-minute mark:
While Schiff, due to his leadership of the House Intel Committee, will likely become Trump’s chief anagonist after the new year, he wasn’t the only Democrat who was making the rounds on the Sunday shows to discuss the many avenues that Democrats are planning to investigate after they take power.
Jerry Nadler said during an appearance on “This Week” that the Judiciary Committee, which he will lead, intends to pursue suspicions that the White House intervened to tamper with the Kavanaugh probe.
Rep. Jerry Nadler on a potential investigation of Kavanaugh: “It’s not a question of investigating Justice Kavanaugh. We do have a responsibility, I believe, to investigate the process by which the FBI was stifled in its investigation by the White House” https://t.co/7JavRrA6jXpic.twitter.com/Og1Ow06l4N
…as well as possible violations of the emoluments clause (which prohibits taking gifts from foreign leaders).
Rep. Elijah Cummings says Democrats want to look at “possible violations” of the emoluments clause while investigating Trump: “We’ve got to figure out when is he acting on behalf of the American people … or is he acting on his own behalf?” https://t.co/P6iz1j1VA4#ThisWeekpic.twitter.com/L8E9seh2jo