The morning after the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump published a curious tweet that sounded like a threat: the president wrote that if the House Democratic majority launched investigations in Trump’s many scandals, Republicans would “likewise be forced to consider investigating them.”
A few hours later, at a White House press conference, Trump reiterated the threat, insisting he could direct the Republican-led Senate to examine “very questionable things” Democrats have done if the new House majority conducted vigorous oversight of him. It was at this same press conference that the president dismissed the idea of working with Congress at all in the midst of investigations.
“You can’t do them simultaneously, by the way,” he insisted. ‘Somebody says, ‘Oh, you can do ‘em both.’ No, you can’t. Because if they’re doing that, we’re not doing the other, just so you understand. So we won’t be doing that.”
In effect, Trump gave Democrats a choice between legislating and conducting oversight. Congress, in the president’s mind, could tackle substantive issues or it could examine his many scandals, but it couldn’t do both – because he wouldn’t allow it.
Early on in the president’s State of the Union address last night, Trump adopted a similar posture.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States – and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
None of this was ad-libbed; what he said was exactly as it appeared in the prepared text.
To my mind, these 48 words mattered more than anything else in the president’s 82-minute speech. With these three sentences, the Republican effectively gave away the game: Donald Trump is afraid of what investigations might produce.
On the surface, the details of the president’s rhetoric fell somewhere between wrong and odd. There is, for example, nothing “miraculous” about the current strength of the economy.