The memories of the tumultuous 2016 U.S. presidential election, contentious political squabbling between Republican President Donald Trump and top Democratic congressional leaders and the shadow of months of unending investigations all came to rancorous confrontation in Washington on Wednesday.
Trump abruptly called off a White House meeting with Democrats a short time after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused him of engaging “in a cover-up” by refusing to cooperate with Democratic-led investigations of his business affairs and the aftermath of Russian intrusion in the election.
“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden, adding that he would not negotiate with Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and others over policy issues while congressional investigations of him are ongoing.
“You can’t do it under these circumstances,” he said. “What they’ve done is abuse. Let them play their games.”
But the spat, partly played out on national television, was borne of Trump’s growing anger and frustration at congressional oversight instigated by Democratic lawmakers who took control over the House of Representatives in January after two years of Republican dominance and virtually no oversight of their political colleague in the White House.
Trump has vowed to combat all Democratic subpoenas for information linked to his business affairs, taxes and more congressional testimony stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia in the presidential contest three years ago and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the Mueller probe.
With one exception, Trump so far has held Democrats at bay in their pursuit of information and public oversight that could, when broadcast on live television, damage his chances for winning re-election in November 2020.
Some House Democrats, and a lone Republican congressman, have called for the start of impeachment hearings against Trump, even though the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to remove him from office.
Pelosi, the leader of the majority Democrats in the House of Representatives, wants the investigations to continue, but so far has resisted the calls for an impeachment inquiry.
“In any event, I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America,” she said after the aborted White House meeting.
Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday his panel has won an agreement from the Justice Department to turn over 12 categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence information that had been collected as part of Mueller’s investigation into the Russian election interference and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to block the probe.
The House Intelligence panel had subpoenaed the information, and Schiff said the subpoena “will remain in effect, and be enforced” if Justice fails “to comply with the full document request.”
Other House committees, however, have not been successful in retrieving information and testimony they have demanded from Trump and his administration.
Mueller’s report concluded that Trump had not colluded with Russia to help him win the election. But it cited 11 instances of possible obstruction of the investigation by the president, saying that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Attorney General William Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently decided that obstruction of justice charges against Trump were not warranted.
Barr, however, has refused to turn over an unredacted copy of the Mueller report to the House Judiciary Committee, with the Democrat-controlled panel then overriding Republican objections and voting to hold him in contempt of Congress.
Citing Trump's "I don't do coverups" statement and another calling himself probably "the most transparent president" in U.S. history, a Democratic congressman wrote a letter to Barr with a renewed request to see the full report.
"In light of the president's statements, please let me know what time tomorrow I can come over and review the unredacted Mueller report.I simply request the same access that you gave to Republican Congressman Doug Collins," Congressman Ted Lieu said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected a request to turn over six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns. Despite a 1924 law saying that the government “shall” turn over the tax returns to key congressional leaders, Mnuchin said Democratic lawmakers lacked “a legitimate legislative purpose” for the information.
Trump directed Donald McGahn, his former White House counsel, to defy a subpoena and refuse to testify Tuesday before the Judiciary committee about McGahn’s claim that Trump ordered him to oust Mueller and then, when a news story recounted Trump’s directive, to publicly lie that the conversation never occurred. McGahn, according to the Mueller report, ignored Trump’s order to get rid of Mueller and refused his request to discount the accuracy of the news report.
Trump also is fighting a House bid for his financial records compiled by an accounting firm. A judge in Washington this week ordered the accountants to turn over the records, but the president called the decision “crazy” and is appealing the ruling.
Meanwhile, Trump has unleashed almost daily attacks on the House Democrats’ investigations.
Everybody, including me, thought that when the 40 Million Dollar Mueller Report was released with No Collusion and No Obstruction (of a crime caused by others), that was the end. But no, the Democrats want to keep it going in an effort to help them in 2020. Bad for the Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2019
In another tweet, Trump said:
As I have long been saying, and has now been proven out, this is a Witch Hunt against the Republican Party and myself, and it was the other side that caused the problem, not us!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2019