Democrats are planning to make the scandals surrounding President Trump a key part of their pitch to recapture the House majority this fall. But the one that’s overshadowed all others—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion—is the presidential controversy that Democratic leaders view as the least politically potent on the campaign trail.
The party sees corruption, not collusion, as the scandal-related message that will resonate most in the midterm elections—a way to connect the seemingly daily controversies of the Trump administration with the Republican Congress’s policies on health care and taxes that polls show are unpopular with the electorate.
“Instead of delivering on his promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said as she stood alongside other Democratic leaders on the steps of the Capitol last month to unveil a new anti-corruption plank in the party’s 2018 platform. “Republicans, the White House, and the Congress are cravenly beholden to big money interests, and the American people are paying the price.”
“Drain the swamp” is a familiar refrain not merely because Trump commandeered it on his way to the White House two years ago; it was a rallying cry for Pelosi when Democrats last retook control of Congress in 2006. And in terms of targets for controversy, the Trump administration has given Democrats an embarrassment of riches. Every day seems to bring a new allegation of graft or other wrongdoing against Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump’s first health and human services secretary, Tom Price, resigned after acknowledging that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fly across the country in private planes. And the Department of Housing and Urban Development was found to have spent $31,000 on a new dining-room set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office. (He later requested for the furniture order to be canceled.)