Democrats are about to open the floodgates on investigations into President Trump.

by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger  

The party doesn’t take over the House until January, but it’s already devising battle plans for how it will use the House majority and oversight powers to hold the Trump administration accountable.

The aggressive posture has provoked questions about whether the Democrats’ eagerness to investigate Trump will distract from the kitchen-table issues they ran on during the midterms.

“We are responsible. We are not scattershot. We are not doing any investigation for a political purpose but to seek the truth. So I think a word that you could describe about how Democrats will go forward in this regard is, it will be very strategic.” – Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the likely next Speaker of the House, on CBS News’s “Face the Nation”

Democrats insist they’ll be able to legislate changes that will help Americans, while at the same time pinning the White House to the ground with oversight. But with a Republican in the White House and a GOP-controlled Senate, any bill that becomes law will have to be bipartisan.

The New York Times: Democrats didn’t let Trump distract them during their campaigns. That will be harder now. “Don’t chase every ball that he throws.”

In appearances across the Sunday news shows, Democrats detailed the myriad ways they intend to flex their new oversight powers in the months ahead.

The confrontation starts with the Department of Justice and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who Democrats say was installed as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller.

On Sunday, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the likely incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, threatened to subpoena Whitaker.

“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 any role that he plays will be exposed to the public.” – Schiff on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Trump has not said when he intends to nominate a full-time replacement for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced out last week.

House Democrats are expected to push legislation to protect Mueller, although that effort would likely get stuck in the GOP-held Senate.

“Mueller is not going to be stopped. It’s going to continue and it should continue … If it continues … why protect something that’s actually continuing?” – Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Still, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is threatening a government shutdown by tying legislation protecting Mueller to a must-pass spending bill next month.

The Hill: Dems race to protect Mueller.

Laurence H. Tribe: Whitaker’s appointment was unconstitutional.

Beyond focusing on the DOJ, Democrats want to obtain and release the president’s tax returns. They may turn their attention to his personal and business practices, as well.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump played central role in hush payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, potentially violating campaign finance laws.

Democratic leaders say they’ll examine allegations the president sought to use his federal authority to crack down on the news media.

Schiff and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), likely the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, say they’ll investigate Trump for urging the postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

They also say they’ll look into Trump’s efforts to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which Democrats believe was aimed at punishing CNN.

And Democrats are champing at the bit to take on the president’s Cabinet, which has been beset by controversies, scandals and turnover from the start.

  • Scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might be gone before Democrats get a crack at him.

The Washington Post: Zinke is Cabinet official most vulnerable to Dem probe.

Politico: Zinke prepares to leave Trump’s Cabinet.

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose business deals have attracted scrutiny since he joined the Cabinet, might also be replaced before Democrats take over.

CNBC: Trump could replace Ross before they year is out.

  • Democrats plan to put the president’s energy policies under the microscope, with a focus on climate change. And they’ll dig into Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s relationships with outside groups and advisers.

Bloomberg: Perry won’t be able to hide from gavel-wielding Democrats.

As part of their focus on energy and the environment, Democrats will take aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, currently under the leadership of acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is despised on the left and certain to be a top target for Democrats.

Politico: Democrats expected to ramp up oversight of DeVos.

  • During the midterms, Democrats focused their closing arguments on health care coverage and costs. That means Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma will be on the hot seat. That’s particularly true with Rep.-elect Donna Shalala (D), the former HHS secretary, who will represent her South Florida district in Congress.
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