The House Judiciary Committee defeated a Democratic effort to receive any information regarding possible conflicts of interest, ethical violations, or wrongful connections with Russia by President Trump and his associates from the Department of Justice.
Democrats, being the minority party in the House, have little ability to pass legislation or shape debates. A resolution of inquiry, however, is a special circumstance. Under House rules, it must be considered by the relevant committee. If not, within 14 business days it goes straight to the House floor for debate and a vote.
The panel voted along party lines to send the resolution to the House with an unfavorable recommendation on Tuesday. This means the resolution will not receive a full vote by the House. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who submitted the resolution request, feels it was necessary to urge the House to move on with an investigation. Nadler is the second-most senior committee member, and has a long history of voting staunchly against any Republican-sponsored bill, many times without even doing research on it. It’s no surprise that Nadler is so focused on disrupting more important duties of the committee just to get a rise out of fellow Democrats.
This move by the Judiciary Committee adds to the list of Democratic failures this week as it joins another failed request by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) requesting President Trump’s tax returns.
Rep. Nadler’s resolution would have made Attorney General Sessions’ office hand over documents or communications related to any intelligence investigations that target President Trump and his current and former advisers.
Nadler claims the resolution has two areas that it covers: “President Trump’s breathtaking web of business entanglements, which he has refused even to disclose, and the close relationship he and his aides appear to have with Russia.” His main question was “Is Donald Trump violating the Constitution?” He wants to know if the Trump campaign joined forces with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton and if Trump is receiving foreign payments from foreign countries while in office.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, voted against the resolution. He told the panel he felt the resolution was “unnecessary and premature” and motivated mainly by a political effort to force Republicans “to vote on Trump.” With the vote along party lines, the resolution failed 16-18.
Even though he opposed the resolution, Goodlatte did call out the Justice Department for not acting on his own request for a briefing regarding any alleged interference from Russia in the U.S. election and potential ties to the Trump campaign. “Having not received a briefing,” Goodlatte said he and other committee members will be asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a letter to pursue “all legitimate investigative leads” into any criminal conduct regarding the matters of his original request this week.
“We can and will investigate any credible allegations of misconduct by the executive branch to the extent such allegations fall within this committee’s jurisdiction, but we will not do so through politically-charged resolutions of inquiry that could jeopardize the integrity of the very investigations the resolution calls for,” he said.
The room was packed with protesters from lawmakers’ recent town halls from across the country. There were a few outbreaks of applause and boos punctuating lawmakers’ comments, which prompted Rep. Goodlatte to hammer his gavel for silence. The protesters interrupted the proceedings seven times, a few in which the person was escorted out by police.
Goodlatte pointed out that the type of resolution brought up by the Democrats has only been brought to the House floor twice out of 71 attempts in the past seven decades. He went on to say the resolution had “no greater legal force than sending the attorney general a letter requesting this information,” once again reiterating his own request to the Justice Department.
Back in late January, the House and Senate intelligence panels began investigating possible Russian meddling in the U.S. elections aimed at benefiting Trump, according to intelligence officials. On Monday, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and top panel Democrat Adam Schiff said they had agreed on expanded boundaries of their mostly closed-door investigation.
The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary, John Conyers of Michigan, equated Republican opposition to Tuesday’s resolution to members of the same committee voting in 1974 against impeaching President Richard Nixon. He said the resolution Tuesday was “not as weighty” as impeachment, but wondered how history would judge the vote. The Republican party wasted no time in shutting down his comparison, stating the two votes have absolutely nothing in common and by making the comparison, Conyers is grasping at straws to defend the weak Democratic agenda.
The Dems thought they were putting the GOP on the spot by introducing the resolution request the way they did, and then following it up with reasons and excuses that have no substance. Republicans understand the issues that matter, though. By Rep. Goodlatte’s response to the resolution, and his reference to his own request to the Department of Justice, the majority party is showing Democrats that there are better ways to handle situations, and that crying about it is not going to help them.
The denial of the resolution request is a signal that the Republican lawmakers are finally beginning to back President Trump, which will make the party stronger and help the GOP agenda continue to move forward. The first two years of Trump’s term are important to both the Executive and Legislative branches. If lawmakers choose to work alongside President Trump more, they can easily secure re-election and retain the majority in 2018.