The day after the midterm elections, Donald Trump held a press conference in which he expressed some anxiety about congressional investigations from House Democrats. The president threatened to expose “very questionable things” unnamed Dems have done, adding that he wouldn’t work with Congress on substantive issues if he disapproved of lawmakers’ oversight.
Yesterday, in an interview with the New York Post, Trump went a little further.
In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with The Post, President Trump said Wednesday that if House Democrats launched probes into his administration – which he called “presidential harassment” – they’d pay a heavy price.
“If they go down the presidential harassment track, if they want go and harass the president and the administration, I think that would be the best thing that would happen to me. I’m a counter-puncher and I will hit them so hard they’d never been hit like that,” he said during a 36-minute Oval Office sitdown.
Specifically, the president reportedly raised the prospect with the New York Post of declassifying materials related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Russia scandal, which he predicted would expose some kind of conspiracy linking the FBI, the Justice Department, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Democrats, Trump warned, “will see how devastating those pages are.”
He’s evidently not prepared to share this evidence now. Rather, the president wants the incoming Democratic House majority to believe he has leverage: if they investigate him, Trump will offer proof to substantiate his anti-Justice Department conspiracy theories.
If, right about now, you find yourself smirking and struggling to stifle a laugh, rest assured, you’re not alone.
On the surface, it’s hard not to notice that Trump seems awfully concerned about House Democratic scrutiny of his White House. Most modern presidents have had to deal with the opposition party controlling at least part of Congress, but no modern president has scrambled to publicly threaten lawmakers not to investigate executive-branch scandals.
I wonder why this is making him so nervous.
There’s also a degree of irony to the circumstances: in the same interview yesterday, Trump railed against “McCarthyism.” It created an unfortunate dynamic: the president simultaneously condemned the tactics of Joseph McCarthy and claimed to have “devastating” secret information that would embarrass his perceived political enemies – which, of course, was a standard McCarthy tactic.
But perhaps most important is the familiarity of the circumstances. Trump claimed to have secret information about Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) that would end his career, but that information didn’t exist. Trump claimed that by declassifying secret intelligence related to the Mueller probe, he could bolster Republican talking points. This tactic has already failed – twice.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump expects everyone to believe that he’s again sitting on secret information that would substantiate one of his favorite conspiracy theories, and he’ll release the “devastating” materials if Congress investigates his scandals. I have a hunch the incoming House Democratic majority isn’t overly concerned.