With less than 50 days to go until the election, exhausted House Democrats—staring down fresh oversight challenges from a president who just keeps on serving them up—are embracing a Jesus-take-the-wheel approach: putting faith in the voting public to exercise the ultimate check on Donald Trump.
On a Tuesday morning outside the U.S. Capitol—days after the release of a whistleblower complaint alleging, among other things, that Trump administration officials have been severely downplaying the extent of Russian interference in the 2020 election—the question of how House Democrats might keep up at a time like this prompted Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) to offer a disbelieving chuckle. Which then morphed into a full-on fake sob, played up for effect.
Malinowski’s initial reaction to that question might sum up how many of his colleagues are feeling right now—almost comically fatigued at the prospect of confronting a new crisis, a breakdown of election security protocols, in a presidency that’s been full of crisis. But his actual answer to the question indicated a broader hope among Democrats that the light at the end of the tunnel may finally be near.
“Impeachment is the tool the Constitution gives us to deal with serious abuse of power in between elections,” said Malinowski, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was sharply critical of Trump during that impeachment process. “When you’re two months from an election… the American people are going to have their say very, very soon.”
With campaign season in full swing and Congress consumed with attempting to respond to a devastating pandemic, House Democrats’ apparatus of Trump oversight is decidedly on the back burner. The party is of course planning to do its due diligence in responding to the issues that have come up, like the whistleblower complaint, but with impeachment far behind in the rearview and the administration continuing to stonewall requests for documents and testimony, there’s a realization that Democrats may have reached the limit of their oversight powers.
“It feels that way sometimes,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), “but I obviously think we still have to pursue every avenue, turn over every rock… I mean, right now, it’s pretty much in the hands of the American people.”
No Democrat is arguing that they should take a laissez faire approach to oversight of the Trump administration’s stewardship of the executive branch. But in a complete departure from their typical election-year form, many in the party are increasingly confident that the American people will exercise the ultimate check on Trump—by voting him out.
“We’re at a point where everything matters,” said Malinowski. “I don’t think it helps the president to be seen as trampling on legal norms, especially in a moment where he’s trying to run a campaign based on law and order… It’s not so much that the Hatch Act is a burning issue, a burning kitchen table issue for families in districts like mine, but people understand the law is the law.”
Democrats are “finally confident” Trump is heading toward defeat,