For two years, opponents of President Donald Trump have been contending the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller is vital to American democracy. They’ve publicly stated their fears that the president would shut down the probe with the help of a Republican Congress.
Now that the Mueller probe appears to be winding down, it seems the Trump opposition is not so confident that the findings will be the undoing of the president. So the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House is racing at full speed to investigate anything and everything it can find pertaining to Trump – from long before his presidency, through the campaign and into his tenure in office.
With the Mueller report pending and investigations of Trump ongoing in New York as well, U.S. House leadership is embarking on probes that will undoubtedly continue through the 2020 presidential election.
That is the plan of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who has already labeled Trump guilty of obstruction of justice. His committee on Tuesday said it is sending requests for documents to 81 people linked to the president and his associates.
For their part, Republicans cannot argue too loudly against congressional probes. Look at recent history:
• President Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal that led all the way to impeachment.
• President Barack Obama and Fast and Furious, the failed operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during which the bureau allowed illegal gun sales near the border with Mexico in hopes of tracking where the weapons would end up.
• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her role related to the deaths of U.S. personnel in the Benghazi attacks.
As much as Congress has oversight responsibility with regard to the presidency, the process is off the rails in the post-Watergate era. A president not under some kind of investigation now would be an exception.
It’s time for a change – not one that will affect the present landscape regarding Trump. But going forward, there should be legal parameters protecting the president from constant probes, many of which are overtly political.
New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh came to just that conclusion following his roles as a member of the team that investigated Bill Clinton and an aide to President George W. Bush. In a 2009 article in the Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh argued that presidents should not be distracted by civil lawsuits, criminal investigations or even questions from a prosecutor or defense attorney while in office.
Having observed the weighty issues that can consume a president, Kavanaugh wrote, the nation’s chief executive should be exempt from “time-consuming and distracting” lawsuits and investigations, which “would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”
If a president were truly malevolent, Kavanaugh wrote, he could always be impeached.
Both Republicans and Democrats have reason to consider putting limitations on investigations of a sitting president, as chief executives from both parties have been “consumed” by them.
The loser is America and its people. With so many issues facing the nation, our leaders need to spend more time addressing them and far less investigating the political opposition.