“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan—obviously very partisan,” Trump told the Post Tuesday evening, saying he would block any administration staffers from speaking with Congress. “I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this.”
Unstoppable force of Democratic investigations, meet the immovable object of Trump administration stonewalling. Or something like that—only with the investigations stoppable, and the administration movable.
Read: What Republicans really want from investigating the Russia investigators
Trump’s zero-cooperation policy is unworkable and disconnected from law and precedent. House Democrats undeniably have partisan motives, but some party always controls the chamber. The Constitution doesn’t provide for congressional oversight of the executive branch only when there’s unified control of Congress and the White House—though quite a few past presidents probably wish it did.
More broadly, the Trump administration’s attempt to slow-walk the investigations isn’t especially surprising, and it might be the most strategically savvy step it can take. Even so, there’s a good chance that most or even all of the attempts to block the investigations will eventually come to naught. The lawsuit that is trying to block Mazars from complying with the subpoena relies in part on a precedent dating to 1880—which was overruled in 1927, the Post noted.
The case on the tax returns is flimsy, too. Though the law under which the Ways and Means Committee is requesting the returns hasn’t been tested in court, it appears to give the committee the authority to get the returns. The White House claims that Trump can’t release his returns, because he’s under audit from the Internal Revenue Service, but that’s a red herring. First, no law bars anyone from releasing a return that’s under audit. Second, there’s no evidence Trump is actually under audit; his former attorney Michael Cohen told the House Oversight Committee in February he did not believe that Trump was under audit. In any case, Trump said during the 2016 campaign that he’d release his taxes once they were no longer being audited, but after the election, White House officials argued the vote proved there was no need to release them. The administration isn’t even trying to make its stories consistent or convincing.
But it matters less whether the administration loses legal fights over investigations than when it loses them. Democrats are searching for incriminating information about Trump that might help stymie his agenda and lead to his defeat in the 2020 election. If White House stonewalling can push the resolution of these cases back beyond Election Day, it will have achieved its purpose.
Trump, of course, wouldn’t be the first president to strategically stonewall. President Bill Clinton’s legal team successfully stalled the sexual-harassment suit brought by Paula Jones until after the 1996 election, when the president agreed to settle.