It’s not that President Donald Trump is standing up for executive branch prerogatives, it’s that he is in “defiance of congressional attempts to investigate his administration,” wrote Seung Min Kim on Thursday in the Washington Post.
In “Trump’s defiance puts pressure on Congress’s ability to check the president,” Kim does not mention “the phone and the pen” by which President Barack Obama said he would govern. Instead, she lays all the blame on the current dysfunction in Washington on a president she claims “sees few limits on his executive power.”
She writes that “since taking office, Trump has consistently treated Congress as more of a subordinate than an equal – often aided by the tacit approval of congressional Republicans who have shown little interest in confronting the president.”
She writes that “tensions … have escalated in recent days as the White House refuses to comply with subpoenas from newly empowered House Democrats eager to conduct aggressive oversight of his administration.”
That much of the aggressive oversight they wish to conduct was conducted over the last two years by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of Hillary-contributing lawyers is not mentioned.
Instead, she mentions again that Trump’s decision not to cooperate with House committees – he announced his week he was withholding cooperation on a variety of matters because the aim of the hearings was not fact finding but preparing opposition research for the 2020 election – “coupled with reluctance from Republicans in control of the Senate to cross him, has left Congress struggling to assert itself as a coequal branch of government, most likely leaving it to the courts to settle a series of power struggles that could define the relationship between the executive and legislative branches for years to come.”
She then quotes Rep. Gerry Connolly, a backbench Democrat from Virginia, saying, “’A respect for the limits of your branch of government, a respect for the role of other branches of government is sort of the oil that makes the machinery work.’”
The White House has resisted subpoenas on three fronts this week, Kim wrote, “limiting how much oversight Democrats can exert as both sides prepare for a potentially protracted standoff.”
The White House directed an official not to give a deposition about the administration’s security clearance practices, particularly its decision to give one to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top aide with a broad portfolio.
Kushner’s attempt to get a clearance was slowed by the Mueller investigation, which has concluded without Kushner, Trump or any American being charged with any crime related to collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign. President Trump overruled security officials and ordered that Kushner receive a clearance.
It also sought to have former White House counsel Donald McGahn testify despite problems with attorney-client privilege – which Trump has raised in refusing to allow the testimony. And Trump has declined to have administration officials testify about the 2020 census question on citizenship – a case that already has been heard by the Supreme Court.
Kim anonymously quotes an administration official saying “’America’s general scorn toward Congress … I think that’s pretty widely shared in the West Wing.’”
She then says Trump’s subpoena fights may be new, but “his lack of deference to Congress has been a theme throughout his presidency, when for the first two years a Republican-controlled Congress rarely challenged him.”
Yet, Kim writes that although “the dynamic between the White House and Democrats is becoming increasingly bitter,” both sides “hold out some hope that bipartisan deals might be possible in the second half of Trump’s first term.”
He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are supposed to meet next week about infrastructure, “although the specter of congressional investigations will almost certainly hang over the discussion.”