Many of us have become fairly numb since the 2016 election, our sense of normalcy upended like a cow tipped unceremoniously in a field. And like that field, everything smells like bullsh*t right now, primarily the lack of information coming out of the White House in response to requests from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Try to shake yourself out of that numbness today, because the White House is “engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction,” according to a Washington Post op-ed penned by Oversight Committee chair Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. This is a serious threat to our democracy.
Cummings writes that, while the committee has been allowed to view certain documents (some of which are blacked out or unrelated to the subjects being investigated), the White House has not turned over papers or produced witnesses:
I have sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics—some routine and some relating to our core national security interests. In response, the White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews.
Let me underscore that point: The White House has not turned over a single piece of paper to our committee or made a single official available for testimony during the 116th Congress.
For contrast, consider the 20,000 pages regarding Hurricane Katrina turned over to the Oversight Committee by George W. Bush’s administration, or the plethora of witnesses and documents provided by the Obama White House about Benghazi. That is the norm. Presidents on both sides of the aisle understood the importance of the Oversight Committee’s role in enforcing the checks and balances in the government. Now, though, we are dealing with a goddamn conman who is testing the strength of those power checks built into our system.
The investigations led by the Oversight Committee cover a number of different topics, including White House security clearances (with Trump’s administration claiming Congress is not entitled to information about individuals such as Michael Flynn and his successor John Bolton, both of whom have shady ties to Russia), Trump’s undisclosed hush money payments to women prior to the 2016 election and allegations that the commander-in-chief has destroyed documents, thus violating the Presidential Records Act.
Trump’s attempt to stonewall congressional oversight led to Cummings’ piece and, as the chair writes, forthcoming subpoenas. The Maryland Democrat states:
President Trump’s actions violate our Constitution’s fundamental principle of checks and balances. If our committee must resort to issuing subpoenas, there should be no doubt about why. This has nothing to do with presidential harassment and everything to do with unprecedented obstruction.
Looks like we’re in cow pie city, folks.