Russian Collusion Didn’t Work. What Will the Democrats Do Now?
The Democrats refuse to accept the fact the Special Counsel found no wrongdoing. No evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to affect the election. They’re upset that Attorney General William Barr has declined to prosecute, even though he has nothing to prosecute.
What does a political party traditionally do when it loses a presidential election? It tries to win the next one. That’s the way our system works. But the leading Democrats won’t wait until 2020. They must find other ways to take down President Trump. And they think they’ve got one.
The Sovereign District
Democrats are eagerly turning their sights on the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). It has an independent streak and operates with very little oversight from the DOJ. This has earned it the nickname “the Sovereign District of New York.” Unlike the Special Counsel, the office is not limited in what it can investigate. It can look at almost anything it wants to.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the SDNY probe is more worrisome for Trump than Mueller’s probe. Former prosecutors say witnesses cooperating with the SDNY — such as Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen — should strike fear in those under investigation.
Geoffrey Berman, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Manhattan, recused himself from the Cohen probe. This means partisan Democrats could be in charge. Cohen testified to Congress that he knew of wrongdoing by Trump and that the SDNY was looking into it. He mentioned hush money payments, lies about a real estate project in Russia and bank, charity, tax and bank fraud. He said Trump ordered him to commit a felony.
The SDNY is already probing the Trump Organization and Trump’s inaugural committee. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who has defended the president, says any indictments of the Trump family will have to be approved by the DOJ. The common view at the DOJ is that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Sources told The New York Times that there are 12 separate probes into Trump, mainly by the SDNY. Did Trump’s inaugural committee made false filings with the FEC? What about receiving illegal donations? Did the Trump organization inflate insurance claims? Did the Trump family underpay taxes on real estate?
The New York state Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The foundation agreed in December 2018 to dissolve. The lawsuit accused it of engaging in a “shocking pattern of illegality.” The complaint said it was “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.” The AG alleged that Trump used the charity to pay off his debts and buy personal items.
Attorneys General Lawsuit
Democratic AGs in Maryland and D.C. filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump violated anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution through his business dealings with foreign countries. The Constitution’s emoluments clause bars officials from accepting payments from foreign governments. The AGs claim that spending by foreign officials at Trump’s D.C. hotel constitutes unconstitutional gifts, or emoluments.
The Democrats could try to impeach Trump. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she doesn’t support it. Only two Democrats remain in the House impeachment caucus, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Al Green, D-Texas. They submitted an impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
The president can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House requires a simple majority to impeach. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority to convict and remove. It’s a waste of time for the House to impeach since the GOP controls the Senate.
Six House committee chairs have said they are looking into Trump’s businesses, the role banks played in funding the Trump organization and whether the president abused the powers of his office. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked for copies of Trump’s financial documents stemming from 2009 to 2019. This was in response to Cohen testifying that Trump inflated and deflated his worth.
But Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the committee, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., objected. They complained, “His inquiry does not appear to have a valid legislative purpose and instead seems to seek information to embarrass a private individual.”
The House Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., is expected to ask Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for Trump’s past tax returns. Mnuchin hinted that he would not turn them over when testifying before Congress on March 14. “We will examine the request and we will follow the law … and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer” regarding their right to privacy. Only half of Americans polled think authorities should force Trump to turn over his tax returns.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is looking into public corruption and abuse of power by Trump, in addition to obstruction of justice. He summoned testimony and information from more than 80 “individuals, agencies and entities.” Nadler says he received tens of thousands of documents.
Democrats could also still question Attorney General William Barr’s decision not to prosecute Trump over obstruction of justice. The Mueller report did not go so far as to exonerate the President on that charge. Nadler is considering calling Barr in front of his committee about it. Congressional Democrats could also come up with additional issues to investigate after reading Mueller’s report, which Barr seems likely to release. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said Barr’s “analysis and rationale are fair game for congressional investigation too.”
Democrats realize that without something really damaging, voters will likely reelect Trump. A poll taken by Hill-HarrisX — even before the summary of Mueller’s report was released — found that 54 percent of Americans said they would think about voting for Trump. Democrats are not going to let up. Trump will remain under siege.
Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.