Trump, Democrats clash over probes

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE and House Democrats on Wednesday opened up a pitched battle over an intensifying set of investigations, the latest sign partisan warfare may extinguish chances of bipartisan cooperation on major issues under divided government.

The public clash came one day after Trump slammed Democrats for “ridiculous partisan investigations” in his State of the Union address. Undeterred, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee charged ahead with plans for a sweeping investigation into Russia’s election interference and Trump’s finances. 


Trump responded by blasting Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP The real reason Nancy Pelosi has backed away from impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) as a “political hack who’s trying to build a name for himself” and as having “no basis” for launching the probe. “It’s just presidential harassment, and it’s unfortunate and it really does hurt our country,” Trump told reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.  

Schiff shot back that he “won’t be distracted or intimidated by threats or attacks” by Trump. “I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the president,” the California Democrat tweeted. “Several of his close associates are going to jail, others await trial, and criminal investigations continue.” 

The Intelligence panel’s investigation is one of several House Democrats are launching using their newfound majority, all of which promise to dog the president well into his 2020 reelection campaign. 

Trump is also grappling with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into whether members of his 2016 presidential campaign coordinated with Moscow, in addition to a federal probe into payments made during the race by then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to women who claimed to have had affairs with the former business mogul.

The president’s comments on Wednesday stood in stark contrast to the measured tone Trump used in portions of his State of the Union address the night before. 

Well aware House Democrats are eager to pursue him after spending eight years in the minority, Trump warned them during his annual address that partisan probes could end the “economic miracle” happening under his watch. 

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said. 

But Trump also dangled the possibility of bipartisan compromise on issues such as infrastructure, drug pricing and trade if Democrats heed his warnings.

Party leaders appeared uninterested in playing along. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called Trump’s remarks a “threat” to the legislative branch and its oversight authorities. 

“The president should not bring threats to the floor of the House,” Pelosi told reporters following a Democratic caucus meeting.

Trump isn’t without his defenders on Capitol Hill. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.) on Wednesday suggested investigations into the president “should come to a close.”

“Look, we will never give up our oversight role, but this country is too great for a small vision of just investigations,” McCarthy said. “There are challenges out there that we have to get done. And to be fair, we have been investigating for the last two years.” 

But there is little Republicans can do to thwart the blizzard of Democrat-led probes, a stark disadvantage of being shuffled to the minority. 

The salvos between the White House and House Democrats also highlight arguably the biggest decision Pelosi and her lieutenants will face in this Congress: whether to start impeachment proceedings against Trump. While Pelosi and other leaders have said they will need to review Mueller’s final report, Trump last month said, “You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job.” Last year, he said “people would revolt” if Democrats pursued impeachment. 

Schiff on Wednesday outlined the parameters of the committee’s expanded Russia investigation, which he revived as one of his first orders of business as chairman — months after Republicans on the committee abruptly ended it last spring. 

In addition to probing potential coordination between the Russians and other foreign entities and the Trump campaign, Schiff said the panel would focus on Trump’s business interests and whether he, his family or his associates were ever at “heightened risk” for foreign exploitation or coercion. 

The committee’s first major witness is expected to be Cohen, who is facing a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance violations and other crimes, and who has been a key cooperator in Mueller’s investigation. 

Cohen has admitted to lying to the House and Senate Intelligence panels about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow —doing so in order to minimize links between the project and then-candidate Trump at a key moment in the 2016 campaign. 

The committee was supposed to grill Cohen behind closed doors on Friday, but Schiff on Wednesday postponed his testimony until Feb. 28, days before he is supposed to report to prison. Trump has slammed Cohen as a “rat” lying to investigators in order to reduce his jail sentence. 

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is separately negotiating an appearance by Cohen, after he abruptly canceled public testimony, citing threats from Trump and the president’s lawyer in the Russia probe, Rudy Giuliani.

The White House has beefed up its legal and communications teams to prepare for the coming onslaught from Democrats. 

Last week, it was officially announced that attorneys Michael Purpura, Patrick Philbin and Kate Comerford Todd would be joining White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s office as deputies. Cipollone is expected to bring in roughly 17 lawyers to help with the effort.  

Steven Groves, who formerly worked in the counsel’s office, was moved into the press shop to respond to investigations.

Other probes on a wide variety of topics are sure to produce more headaches for the president. 

The Oversight panel has also launched a wide-ranging probe into the White House security clearance process, requesting a trove of documents from the administration on current and former officials who were cleared to view classified information. 

Various Democrats are also targeting Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses Deripaska sues Trump admin over Russia sanctions US announces new Russia sanctions with Canada, EU MORE over the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on firms tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. 

“What we’re going to do is we are going to get Mr. Mnuchin into the committee and ask him real pointed questions about delisting [Deripaska’s companies],” House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Senate rejects border declaration in rebuke to Trump | Dems press Mnuchin on Trump tax returns | Waters says Wells Fargo should fire its CEO Maxine Waters says Wells Fargo should fire its CEO On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday. 

And Friday, the House Judiciary Committee will publicly question acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a political ally the president installed atop the Justice Department following Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsO'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump House Judiciary Dem, Republican clash over details of Whitaker testimony DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools MORE’s ouster, about his oversight of the special counsel’s investigation. 

Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is planning to authorize a subpoena to compel Whitaker to testify — just in case he tries to avoid appearing or relies on executive privilege to sidestep questions about his communications with the White House. 

“My understanding is that you will provide full and complete answers to these questions when they are asked at your hearing this Friday,” Nadler wrote in a letter to Whitaker Wednesday.

Olivia Beavers contributed.