Democrats will make 2019 ‘a Hell on Earth’ for Trump



by Selvam Canagaratna

"What is Hell? Hell is oneself, / Hell is alone, the other figures in it / Merely projections."
– T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party, 1949.

The current US administration’s free ride from Congress is finally over, and that sounds like a death sentence to none other than President Donald J. Trump.

New Democratic House committee chairs are set to launch subpoena-powered investigations into Donald Trump’s finances, Russian interference, and administration ethics scandals. For the first time in two years, the Trump administration’s policies and its basic competence in running the government will be under serious scrutiny.

Needless to say, Republicans are extremely worried – and agitated – about this prospect for some time. "Winter is coming," one Trump ally told the Washington Post. If the Democrats win the House, "the White House will be under siege."

And that siege is about to begin.

The big game changer is that the majorities in congressional committees have the ability to approve subpoenas to compel both in-person testimony as well as document production from government agencies and officials as well as private citizens.

Here’s what Vox, an American news and opinion website owned by Vox Media and founded in April 2014 by Ezra Klein had to say on the many Committees gearing up to make Donald’s life hell on earth:

Intelligence Committee — Adam Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will be one of the most important figures setting the Democratic House’s investigatory agenda on Russia as well as other intelligence-related topics.

He will Ę˝follow the money, he said: "One of the issues that has continued to concern me is the persistent allegations that the Trumps, when they couldn’t get money from US banks, were laundering Russian money. If that is true, that would be a more powerful compromise than any salacious videotape or any aborted Trump Tower deal."

He also plans to investigate Trump’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia. "The President is not being honest with the country about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Schiff said on CNN. "Is his personal financial interest driving US policy in the Gulf?" Oversight Committee — Elijah Cummings

This is the House’s main watchdog for the executive branch. For the past two years, the Republicans running it have spent little time on oversight of Trump’s appointees.

Over the past few years, while in the minority, Cummings and his staff have filed well over 50 subpoena requests for the Trump administration to Republicans — but because, they were in the minority, Democrats remained powerless to issue these subpoenas themselves. No longer.

Judiciary Committee — Jerry Nadler

If President Trump were to be impeached, the process would start in this Committee. For now, Nadler plans to investigate what’s been going on at the Justice Department since Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s sudden firing and replacement with Matt Whitaker. And he’s indicated he may reopen questions related to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Judiciary Committee has pretty broad jurisdiction over Trump’s enforcement of immigration law, including the widespread family separations of late spring 2018 and the treatment of unaccompanied children in the custody of Health and Human Services. Democrats will likely ask questions about who is being detained, for how long, and why.

Ways and Means Committee — Richard Neal

Neal hopes to get his hands on Trump’s tax returns. "We’re going to convince him to [release them] but at the same time prepare the legal case for asking for the documents."

Neal told Politico that he "wants to lay out a case about why Presidents should be disclosing their tax returns before he formally forces him to do it."

And even if and when the request is made, Neal expects a court battle over the matter, and there are further questions about how exactly he’d be able to make information in the tax returns public.

Financial Services — Maxine Waters

As chair of the Committee she can scrutinize broad swaths of the financial industry and agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Waters intends to follow the "Trump money trail," starting with Deutsche Bank — and "suspicious activity reports" filed with financial crimes officials.

As committee chair, she’ll have the ability to conduct investigations — and issue subpoenas — on a number of matters related to the Trump administration and Trump family’s finances, including potential ties to Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and Russia.

Foreign Affairs Committee — Eliot Engel

Under Rep. Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee plans to dig into Trump’s connections abroad and whether his business interests might be influencing the administration’s policies.

The committee hopes to obtain more documents about the Trump Organization’s property in Panama. Earlier last year, Trump’s company appealed directly to Panama’s President to stop its eviction from the building as managers. Some say that episode shows a clear conflict of interest between Trump’s duty as President and his ties — since severed — to his namesake company.

Energy and Commerce — Frank Pallone

The Energy and Commerce committee has some of the broadest jurisdiction in Congress — and Frank Pallone's planned oversight agenda for 2019 reflects it. The Trump administration has given Pallone and his staff plenty of openings to burrow into the scandals and controversial policy decisions of the past two years.

Pallone plans to examine how the Trump administration, led by a President who denies climate change even exists, is neglecting or even exacerbating the problem.

They will spend a lot of time on the Environmental Protection Agency, which has rolled back Obama-era regulations governing coal and methane while also disbanding an air pollution review panel. Based on worrying press reports, Democrats have agitated for a hearing on how the EPA handles toxic chemicals.

Natural Resources — Raúl Grijalva

A few weeks after Democrats’ midterm elections victory, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) — the incoming chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources — wrote that scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was "unfit to serve" and should step down.

At first, Zinke responded (on Twitter) with defiance and innuendo about Grijalva’s purported drinking habits. But just two weeks later, Grijalva got his way: Trump announced that Zinke was out.

On Zinke’s watch, the Interior Department proposed the largest rollback of federal land protections in US history and opened nearly all US coastal waters to offshore drilling. Democrats want to investigate how the fossil fuel industry influenced these policies.

The committee also plans to scrutinize Zinke’s temporary replacement, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist.

Veterans’ Affairs — Mark Takano

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has seen tumultuous times under the Trump administration — the President’s first VA secretary was forced out, his his replacement withdrew amid scandal, and current VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has faced controversies of his own.

Another potential items for a probe will likely be the ProPublica report in August that found that three members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — Marvel Entertainment chair Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and lawyer Marc Sherman — were essentially calling the shots at the VA, reviewing policy and personnel decisions from the get-go. Congressional Democrats requested emails and communications between the three and VA officials, but Secretary Wilkie refused to provide them.

Science, Space, and Technology — Eddie Bernice Johnson

In December at an American Geophysical Union meeting, a conference of top physicists, geologists, and atmospheric scientists, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) told the gathering that climate change would be front and centre for the Committee which she will chair.

This is a stark shift from the tenure of her predecessor, retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who has denied that humans are changing the climate and spent years subpoenaing climate scientists for research documents, emails, and correspondence. Critics described the subpoenas as "harassment."

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