Administration

Dems set to challenge Trump during his foreign trip

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President Trump left for Vietnam on Monday, putting him out of the country for one of the most confrontational weeklong stretches he’s faced from the Democratic-held House.

While Trump gets set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the House is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure overturning his emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border.

{mosads}The next day, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hear testimony from Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, setting the stage for some of the strangest split-screen cable news shots in U.S. history. Trump is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is 12 hours ahead of Washington.

The Cohen hearing has the potential to get under Trump’s skin. The president has labeled his former employee a “rat” and a “weak person,” but his testimony seems poised to be a cable news bonanza.

It’s also possible it could steal attention away from Trump’s second summit with Kim — though some wonder if the president has an announcement up his sleeve in Hanoi that would be meant to take those eyeballs back.

Once upon a time, lawmakers in Congress were likely to avoid such images. The idea of politics stopping at water’s edge was meant to limit criticism of a president traveling abroad in the nation’s interest.

But that tradition has greatly eroded in the past two decades — and it seems largely forgotten in the Trump era. Trump himself has criticized rivals while overseas and been the subject of such criticism.

“In terms of Congress deferring to the White House on foreign policy issues, historically there was much more decorum, generally. But the end of that decorum happened long before Trump was elected,” said Ruth Wasem, a professor of policy practice at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

“I think this is part of a culmination of how things have been going,” added Wasem, who is an opinion contributor for The Hill.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will travel with Trump to Vietnam, downplayed whether it’s inappropriate for Congress to hold a hearing that could undermine the president as he holds talks with Kim.

“Congress has its own authority. They can move how they choose to proceed,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace. “I know what we’ll be focused on. I’m very confident that the president and our team will be focused on the singular objective that we are headed to Hanoi for.”

Democrats are likely to grill Cohen on the president’s business dealings, his foreign interests and payments to two women during the 2016 campaign who alleged they had affairs with the president.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to those payments, as well as charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and lying to Congress about the timing of negotiations on a Trump Tower Moscow. He was sentenced late last year to serve three years in jail.

The fight over Trump’s border wall will be another dominant storyline during the president’s trip.

House lawmakers will vote, likely within hours of Trump’s arrival in Hanoi, on a resolution of disapproval that would block the president’s national emergency declaration to secure funding for his long-desired wall along the southern border.

A Democratic leadership aide told The Hill that the president’s travel plans played no role in the House floor schedule.

The resolution is expected to pass the House and shift the spotlight to the Senate, where a handful of Republicans may side with Democrats to oppose Trump’s emergency over concerns it skirts congressional authority.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have said they will likely vote for the resolution of disapproval. Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said Sunday he’s among a group of Republican senators who are undecided on the measure.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill about whether it’s concerned about the timing of Cohen’s testimony or the emergency declaration vote.

There’s little talk of Congress easing up its challenges to Trump while he is in North Korea.

Wasem highlighted that former Presidents Nixon and Clinton didn’t get a reprieve from adversarial lawmakers amid investigations during their terms, and that conservative critics regularly chastised former President Obama during foreign trips.

She noted that both Trump’s talks with Kim and Democrats’ push to undo the president’s emergency declaration are time sensitive, and Congress shouldn’t be expected to hold its fire as a result.

“The severity of what’s going on is not to be minimized,” she said. “In terms of both the negotiations with Korea and dealing with the declaration of a national emergency, those are both very serious things. Neither business should stop because of the other.”

Trump on Monday sought to shore up support for his emergency declaration before leaving the country.

“I hope our great Republican Senators don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security,” Trump tweeted.

“Be strong and smart, don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!” he added.

Tags Border Border wall Donald Trump Immigration Lisa Murkowski Mike Pompeo North Korea Roy Blunt Susan Collins Vietnam

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