President Trump and his legal team do not want people familiar with his actions to testify before Congress. They have stonewalled giving requested evidence to Congress. They particularly balk at providing any of the President’s financial records to Congress, especially those from prior to his ascendancy to the highest office in the land.
Their reason? “It’s a fishing expedition.”
The Republicans now frame winning the Presidency as providing a tabula rasa for all prior actions. It is as if the party which championed an investigation into Whitewater has forgotten that scandal ever existed, or that their complaints about the alleged – and very plausible – attack on Juanita Broaddrick focused on the fact that the statute of limitations had passed.
More: that they have forgotten their efforts to investigate the history of Obama, ranging from possible crimes like a sweetheart financial deal for the Obamas’ house and whether Michelle Obama’s hospital administration position was political payback all the way to absolutely baseless conspiracy theory like Barack’s rumored secret visits to a Chicago gay bathhouse and his “Manchurian Candidate” status as a person born in Kenya and afterward secretly inserted into Hawaii.
Congress is allowed to fish. They are not allowed to target the power of the government on private individuals, but they are allowed to use it against governmental leaders. This is one of the mechanisms by which the nation is supposed to ensure leaders of high moral fabric. Taking the reins of the government should not guarantee all criminality prior to assuming power is negated; rather, it should ensure that a much higher degree of scrutiny is about to be given to that person, both their present and their past.
The recurring complaint about investigations, both media and governmental, is that such pressures will prevent our best and brightest from running from office. That is not the case. What it will prevent is our worst and most unscrupulous from seeking the limelight – and that is something we should all desire.
The risk of allowing the Presidency to “reset” all prior actions is clear. It creates a situation in which people, having been allowed to get away without punishment for any number of actions, are encouraged to perform more crimes; after all, if they were able to evade all responsibility in the past, why would they assume they were to face repercussions in the future, particularly with the power of the Presidency and the leadership of a large political party behind them?
This is fertile ground for lawlessness. It is likely to spawn autocratic behavior, as has been seen in President “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone” Obama and current Democratic Presidential candidates promising to bypass Congress with Executive Orders. The Republicans howl about such actions when Democrats do it. For President Trump, and his efforts to avoid any compliance with Congressional oversight, they absolutely demand it.
“It’s a fishing expedition!” they insist. If so, it’s casting a net in extremely fertile waters where sharks are now regularly threatening our shoreline, and Congress has a license.