Wednesday 18 September 2019

Julie Pace: 'How a torrent of investigations hangs over the White House'

 

'The scope of the scrutiny has shaped Trump's presidency, proving a steady distraction from his governing agenda.' Stock photo
'The scope of the scrutiny has shaped Trump's presidency, proving a steady distraction from his governing agenda.' Stock photo

Julie Pace

Investigations now entangle Donald Trump's White House, campaign, transition, inauguration, charity and business. For Trump, the political, the personal and the deeply personal are all under examination.

Less than two years into Trump's presidency, his business associates, political advisers and family members are being probed, along with the practices of his late father. On Saturday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke became the fourth cabinet member to leave under an ethical cloud, having sparked 17 investigations into his actions on the job, by one watchdog's count.

All of this with the first special counsel investigation against a president in 20 years hanging over Trump's head, spinning out charges and strong-arming guilty pleas from underlings while keeping in suspense whether the president will end up accused of criminal behaviour himself.

The scope of the scrutiny has shaped Trump's presidency, proving a steady distraction from his governing agenda. So far, much of it has been launched by federal prosecutors and government watchdogs that eschew partisanship. The intensity is certain to increase next year when Democrats assume control of the House and the subpoena power that comes with it.

Although Trump dismisses the investigations as politically motivated "witch hunts", his high-octane Twitter account frequently betrays just how consumed he is by the scrutiny. He's also said to watch hours of TV coverage on milestone days.

"It saps your energy, diverts your attention and you simply can't lead because your opponents are up in arms against you," Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political scientist and historian, said of the scrutiny. "It weakens your friends and emboldens your enemies."

Midway through his term, Trump is struggling to deliver on his campaign promises. He may end the year without a Republican-led Congress giving him $5bn he wants for a border wall. And he's previewed few legislative priorities for 2019.

Even if he had, it's unlikely the new Democratic House majority would have much incentive to help a president weakened by investigations rack up wins as his own re-election campaign approaches.

Perhaps not since Bill Clinton felt hounded by a "vast right-wing conspiracy", as Hillary Clinton put it, has a president been under such duress from investigation.

This jeopardy has come with Trump's party in control of Congress and the Justice Department driving at least three separate criminal investigations. They are the Mueller probe on possible Russian collusion, a second into hush money paid to Trump's alleged lovers, and a third on the finances of Trump's inauguration committee.

At best, the investigations are overshadowing what has been positive economic news. At worst, the probes are a threat to the presidency, Trump's family and his business interests.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss