U.S. House Democrats announced a wide-ranging investigation into President Donald Trump Monday, which includes inquiries into the White House, Trump’s presidential campaign and his businesses. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the oversight committee is requesting documents from 81 people who are connected to Trump and his associates.
Some Republicans have framed the probe as the Democrats’ race to dig up negative information on Trump. But when they were the House majority, Republicans acted with purely partisan motives by refusing to hold the president accountable.
It’s a troubling sign for democracy when it takes a change of the party in power to enact checks and balances.
The House Republicans, between 2017 and 2019, failed their basic duty to provide a check on the executive branch. The Democrats’ probe is necessary because Republicans did not provide adequate oversight during Trump’s first two years in office.
‘‘Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,’’ Nadler said in a Boston Globe article. ‘‘Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee.’’
This comes in the wake of House Democrats initiating an investigation of the president’s tax returns.
Republicans unsurprisingly criticized the new probe, but not on any legitimate grounds. The GOP has proven it can perform its oversight responsibilities whenever an investigation seeks to manipulate the political system for their benefit.
The special committee conducting the Benghazi investigation, which was created in 2014, spent $7.8 million over two and a half years. Of course the House should have looked into such a massive security failure, but it arguably used the investigation for strategic partisan gain, as well.
The current House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, essentially said in 2015 that House Republicans had fought politically through the Benghazi investigation to make Hillary Clinton appear untrustworthy.
It is impossible to have a well-functioning democracy without a functional legislature, and when parties only act in their own best interests, oversight is often neglected when the same party is in control of both branches. For now, the new probe headed by House Democrats can re-establish some of the checks and balances lost over the first two years of the Trump presidency.
Nonetheless, it is frustrating that House investigative resources have to be used on activities outside the scope of the presidency. Rather than utilize the time and resources of the Oversight Committee to review the executive branch’s current actions and policies, the committee must also tackle previous dealings from Trump’s past and, at that, review what should have been investigated long ago.
The committee is looking into a long list of people and topics in this investigation, and the past lack of oversight of the Oversight Committee is forcing current members to take on a task unlikely to be accomplished in the next two years.
It is important to get to the bottom of Trump’s business dealings, since they may impact his ability to fulfill the duties of the presidency. But the House should be able to focus its investigative powers largely on checking the actions conducted while Trump was in the White House.
As the Democrats begin to look into Trump’s business affairs on top of his administration’s political dealings, they must not adopt the image of an “anti-Trump” party and manipulate the probe for political gain and ammunition. The progressive ideals that define many Democrats should not be limited to just attacks and investigations into the president.