House Democrats' investigations of Trump are putting the country at risk

Their obsession with going after the president means he is distracted from serious threats like North Korea and China.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on April 26, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP
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By Keith Koffler

At some point, Democrats must decide whether they care about the country more than they hate President Donald Trump. They have to ask themselves: By continuing the vast investigations that have dogged Trump for two years, are we endangering the safety and security of the nation?

A president’s chief responsibility is the defense of the United States. To the extent he is distracted from that task, the country is, by definition, less secure.

The threats facing the country are arguably more complex and numerous than at any time in modern history. Not only is the Cold War with Russia partially revived, but the Chinese government is being increasingly assertive on the world stage. Trump is also confronting the continuing threat of Islamist terrorism, Iran’s efforts to wield its malign influence throughout the Middle East, North Korea on the cusp of obtaining nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the continental United States and a mounting crisis in Venezuela.

The president faces an unmanageable burden that jeopardizes his ability to govern, as similar probes have done to presidents before him.

“We have to run a country,” Trump said last month, not for the first time expressing exasperation that he has never been allowed to focus on the job to which he was elected. The president obviously spends countless hours absorbed by the threat to his presidency, tweeting endlessly about his inquisitors. Trump has, by all accounts — including that of special counsel Robert Mueller — played a hands-on role in his own defense.

Now, after an exhaustive and exhausting probe by Mueller, House Democrats have unleashed no less than a half-dozen committees on the president and could be on the road to impeachment. The demands on the White House, given the need to battle back both privately and in the public arena, will be greater than ever. The president faces an unmanageable burden that jeopardizes his ability to govern, as similar probes have done to presidents before him.

“The Judiciary Committee has one of the broadest mandates of any in Congress, and its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, intends to use almost every inch,” The New York Times wrote in March. “Mr. Nadler sent 81 initial letters on Monday sketching out a sweeping new inquiry into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by Mr. Trump and his administration,” with the requests and targets including government agencies, presidential advisers, Trump business and political associates, the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign and inaugural committee.

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Meanwhile, over at the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the panel is trying to obtain Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm and appraising the White House’s handling of the security clearance process, among many other things. The House Ways and Means Committee wants Trump’s tax returns to scrutinize every paper clip he deducted over the last six years. The House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees are exploring Trump’s past relationship with Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions.

The intelligence panel continues to probe Russian interference in the federal election — perhaps hoping to see if Mueller, who said there was no evidence Trump coordinated with the Russians, left a stone unturned.

All this is in addition to other congressional inquiries and federal and New York state probes into Trump’s finances and campaign.

President Bill Clinton was better able than Trump to compartmentalize his private life, public duties and the investigations and impeachment that plagued his presidency. Unlike Trump, Clinton agreed to a White House routine under which his attorneys and political aides handled the probes while he tried to focus on being president.

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Yet he, too, was affected. Who knows if he would have taken out Osama bin Laden — particularly in August 1998, when he ordered air strikes against suspected al Qaeda sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, where U.S. officials hoped bin Laden was located — had he not been distracted by the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair?

According to Anthony Zinni, then-commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, Clinton was forced to consider the politics of taking military action at that time. “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” he quoted Clinton as saying.

Clinton was torn by his decision to reveal the affair even as he weighed military action. “And so it went for nearly two weeks … as Clinton's schedule and thoughts hurtled back and forth between two crises of a very different nature,” the Washington Post reported at the time. “Even as Clinton was preparing to acknowledge a difficult truth about one secret in his private life, he was harboring another secret dealing with the most difficult responsibility of any president's public life — when to use military force against an enemy.”

For the good of the country, Democrats must consider whether their extraordinarily aggressive stance — including the possibility of impeachment — is worth it.

As impeachment loomed, Clinton ordered a massive air strike on Iraq in December 1998. The president was accused of trying to stave off the vote — even as he insisted the attack was a response to Iraq’s failure to allow unfettered access for weapons of mass destruction inspectors.

During Watergate, President Richard M. Nixon was driven to distraction and drink. At one point during the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab states, the British prime minister called asking to speak to the president. “Can we tell them no?” asked Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “When I talked to the president, he was loaded.”

It is unclear whether a sitting president can be criminally charged or impeached for crimes he committed before taking office, and many of the House Democrats’ investigations focus on Trump’s behavior as a private citizen. Whether he tried to obstruct the Mueller investigation is another matter, but that, too, is open to question.

For the good of the country, Democrats must consider whether their extraordinarily aggressive stance — including the possibility of impeachment — is worth it.

Impeachment is widely held to be a “political,” not a legal, process. If so, the ultimate political process, a presidential election, is already underway and will be completed in just over 18 months. Why not curtail the investigations, take impeachment off the table and let the voters decide Trump’s fate?

Given the awesome responsibilities of the presidency, it would be the responsible thing to do.