100 Things Democrats Could Investigate if They Take Power

Key Democrats have already made clear that the subpoenas to the Trump administration will fly should they win control of one or both chambers.

Rep. Elijah Cummings
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
March 29, 2018, 8 p.m.

If President Trump and his lawyers want to see what their future holds in the event that the House flips Democratic, they need look no further than the past demands of the minority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Or the demands of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. For these hardy ethics watchdogs and critics of the administration, the stakes of the upcoming midterm elections can be captured in one word—subpoenas. If control switches to the Democrats, the subpoenas will flow, and Trump will face what President Clinton endured when his party lost control of Congress in 1994 and he was forced to spend his remaining six years fighting off GOP investigations, subpoenas, and hearings.

Here is a not-very-short list of the subpoenas that can be anticipated if Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings assumes control of the Oversight chairmanship and his fellow Democrats top other investigating committees—and the scrutiny will be even tougher if Democrats also take the Senate. They range from the small (golf-tee markers with presidential seals sold at Trump properties) to the consequential (matters of war and peace).

  1. Trump’s so-called “blind trust.” Cummings demanded an investigation of possible conflicts of interest only days after the 2016 presidential election and long before the inauguration.
  2. Allegations by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct by Trump.
  3. Were there payouts by Trump or the Trump Organization to buy the silence of women making allegations against him?
  4. Nondisclosure agreements: Did the president or the administration demand them of people on the public payroll?
  5. Questionable, taxpayer-financed travel by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, including a European vacation with his wife.
  6. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s attempt to purchase a $31,000 dining-room set for his office, and later efforts to cover up the attempt.
  7. Carson’s mingling of official business with his family’s business interests.
  8. How did Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spend more than $1 million for travel on private and military jets, and should he reimburse the government?
  9. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s extravagant travel, including a private two-week vacation in Greece and Turkey as well as trips in which he mixed official business and visits with donors.
  10. Why is Zinke spending money for his own department flag?
  11. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s meetings and correspondence with industries that pollute and are supposed to be regulated by him.
  12. Pruitt’s extravagant spending on first-class tickets and use of charter and military jets.
  13. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s private holdings and possible conflicts. Has he divested as he promised?
  14. Were White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s flights on private and military planes excessive?
  15. Was billionaire investor and Trump supporter Carl Icahn given a heads-up before Trump this month announced he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum, allowing Icahn to dump stock tied to the steel industry?
  16. Is the Trump Organization violating federal law and trying to profit off the presidency by selling golf-tee markers bearing the Presidential Seal at Trump hotels?
  17. What role is Susan Pompeo playing at the CIA, headed by her husband Mike Pompeo? As what CREW calls a “non-paid non-employee,” is she doing official business?
  18. Is the president sharing highly classified information with his sons, who are not government employees?
  19. Is the president involved in decisions affecting the bottom line of the Trump Organization?
  20. Are members of his family playing on his office to get foreign business?
  21. The president claims to be reimbursing the government for profits realized by his business from foreign sources. How is that being computed, and should the books be opened for scrutiny?
  22. Was the Trump family guilty of “self dealing” by using the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s charitable funds to benefit the family?
  23. Democrats in Congress last year introduced the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act to require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matters involving the president’s businesses. Expect that bill to be revived.
  24. Did the White House retaliate against Walter Shaub and force him out as head of the Office of Government Ethics because he was pushing for Trump to divest?
  25. Cummings has demanded that the White House produce proof of the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud in 2016.
  26. Do White House aides, specifically Conway and Jared Kushner, routinely violate the Hatch Act and conduct political business at the White House?
  27. Democrats have demanded documents from the General Services Administration to show how the GSA is administering the lease on the Trump International Hotel and why the GSA does not see Trump’s election as invalidating the lease.
  28. Most of the subpoena demands by Democrats on the Oversight Committee—almost all of them rejected by the majority—involved the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. A Democratic majority would revisit those requests.
  29. Democrats want answers from White House Counsel Donald McGahn on what he knew and when he knew it about Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials.
  30. Democrats want more details and answers about Flynn’s trip to Moscow in December 2015.
  31. Did President Trump reveal highly classified information, as alleged, to Russian officials in 2017?
  32. Democrats want documents shedding light on reports that the president pressured the director of the National Security Agency and the Director of National Intelligence to thwart the FBI’s Russia investigation.
  33. Democrats want documents and testimony on the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
  34. Oversight Democrats have demanded an investigation of Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and top White House officials to see if they tried to obstruct the Russia investigation by the FBI.
  35. Did Sessions violate his recusal by, as Cummings contends, “collaborating directly” with the president on the firing of Comey?
  36. Democrats seek documents and testimony on the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
  37. Hearings on the rise of white nationalists and neo-Nazis and any ties with the administration as well as documents on the Charlottesville prosecutions.
  38. Is the president violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution? Cummings wants documents.
  39. Oversight Democrats have demanded copies of waivers of ethics rules issued by the administration to lobbyists.
  40. Democrats want more documents and testimony on the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between a Kremlin-connected lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort.
  41. The president’s lawyer said the Secret Service was responsible for vetting that Trump Tower meeting, but some at the meeting said there was little vetting. What does the Secret Service say about that meeting?
  42. Is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency turning away asylum seekers in what Democrats say is a violation of U.S. and international law?
  43. What is the policy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement about breaking up families and deporting heads of families?
  44. Is ICE using churches to target deportees?
  45. Democrats have demanded documents from all Cabinet secretaries to show how they are spending taxpayer funds at Trump properties.
  46. Hearings on the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  47. How much has been spent for Secret Service to rent space or golf carts at Trump properties?
  48. How much has been spent by the government at Trump Tower?
  49. How much has been spent by the government at Mar-a-Lago?
  50. How much has been spent by the government at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey?
  51. Democrats want to know if it is a violation of the Presidential Protection Assistance Act of 1976 to require the Secret Service to protect so many private properties frequented by Trump.
  52. Hearings looking at whether senior executive branch employees are, as Democrats contend, “deliberately trying to circumvent laws by using personal, private, or alias e-mail addresses to conduct official government business.”
  53. Did the administration intentionally squelch, as Democrats believe, a Health and Human Services Department study showing the positive net economic contributions of refugees?
  54. What is the policy on the use of military planes?
  55. Hearings on the HHS decision to schedule major maintenance outages of the Healthcare.gov website during the open enrollment period for Obamacare.
  56. Did the rollbacks on Dodd-Frank result, as Democrats contend, in “giant giveaways” to big banks?
  57. Why did the White House stop making visitor logs public?
  58. There will be a push to require the president and vice president to make their tax returns public each year.
  59. Hearings on the effects of including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  60. Hearings on potential campaign-law violations by Cambridge Analytica and other data firms involved in the 2016 campaign that allegedly made use of foreign nationals in violation of the law.
  61. Hearings on alleged Facebook favoritism toward the Trump campaign in 2016.
  62. Hearings on Facebook’s sharing of private user information.
  63. Kushner, by himself, will be subject to multiple subpoenas and several public hearings on issues starting with his inexplicable and repeated failure to fill out disclosure forms properly.
  64. Democrats have demanded hearings on undisclosed business relationships between the Trump Organization and Kushner Companies, citing conflicts of interest.
  65. Reports that two financial firms made loans worth more than $500 million to Kushner after meetings at the White House will draw oversight.
  66. Cummings has demanded an investigation into Kushner’s failure to obtain a high security clearance.
  67. Kushner’s case will be a springboard to investigate the large number of White House staffers still operating under interim clearances.
  68. Republicans so far have blocked Democratic requests for subpoenas of the Kushner Companies so that Congress can look into what Democrats call the firm’s “abusive rental property practices.”
  69. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, are among those accused of not saving their official emails. Cummings contends the couple set up a private family domain just before joining the White House staff.
  70. Democrats have demanded the results of an ethical review of Kushner conducted by the White House counsel at the request of the Office of Government Ethics.
  71. Donald Trump Jr.’s trip to India in February raised many red flags as he promoted Trump-brand luxury apartments and mixed meetings with government officials and real estate brokers. Democrats want to look at that trip to see if Trump Jr. was making money off his father’s presidency.
  72. Democrats will have Pruitt in their sights, starting with their demand for documents on his meetings with polluters, but looking at many rollbacks of environmental rules, including vehicle-emission and fuel-economy standards.
  73. Pruitt and Trump’s policies toward coal, including control of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and contamination of rivers from leaking coal ash, will lead to hearings.
  74. The president’s pullback from the Paris climate accords will produce subpoenas.
  75. Pruitt’s rollback of rules lowering carbon pollution from power plants.
  76. Control of hazardous pesticides and their effect on farmworkers.
  77. Pruitt is already being sued for changes in the Cross-State Air Pollution rule.
  78. Pruitt and Trump seek to undo the Waters of the United States rule, a controversial move among Democrats.
  79. Trump has sided with offshore oil producers in doing away with environmental and safety regulations, leading to a demand for subpoenas by Democrats.
  80. Democrats want to know why Trump shrank the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by about 2 million acres, the largest rollback ever.
  81. Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida—whose Republican governor is likely running for the Senate—from expanded offshore drilling, prompting a howl from both parties and a demand by Democrats for hearings.
  82. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under Mick Mulvaney, has rolled back regulations on payday loans. Congress has lots of questions.
  83. Democrats want to know why Mulvaney dropped the bureau’s investigation of the data breach at Equifax that resulted in the hacking of millions of Social Security numbers.
  84. Democrats have criticized the Trump administration’s handling of Freedom of Information Act requests. A new Congress will want answers.
  85. Cummings has demanded hearings on the federal response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  86. Cummings is among those demanding a review of the way Trump handles security and classified information when he is at Mar-a-Lago and his Bedminster property, citing reports of a casual approach to classified material.
  87. Cummings wants answers from the White House about a claim made by the White House counsel’s office that “many” regulations put out by the Office of Government Ethics do not apply to White House staff.
  88. Even a Republican Senate will grill CIA nominee Gina Haspel about her role in overseeing the use of torture against detainees. But a Democratic Senate would make that a central point of her confirmation hearings.
  89. Democrats taking control of the House would guarantee public hearings on gun violence.
  90. Now that the National Rifle Association has acknowledged accepting foreign donations, expect hearings and subpoenas to explore whether any of that money was used in American campaigns and to see if the NRA was a conduit of Russian money to the Trump campaign.
  91. Democrats have been itching for hearings to showcase the many ways they believe the administration has sabotaged Obamacare. Hearings would help them place the blame on Trump for any premium increases.
  92. Cummings wants hearings on a report by the Treasury Inspector General alleging that the IRS has singled out progressive groups for extra scrutiny when they apply for tax-exempt status. The hearings would be payback for Republican accusations that the Obama IRS did the same to conservative groups.
  93. Where did the money raised for the Inauguration go?
  94. Where did the money raised for the transition go?
  95. Cummings alleges there has been retaliation against senior career officials at the Interior Department.
  96. Foreign Service veterans allege they have been forced out of the State Department, prompting a likely investigation of the “hollowing out” of Foggy Bottom.
  97. Cummings wants an investigation of the administration’s approach to the opioid crisis, particularly the role of insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers.
  98. Democrats are demanding subpoenas of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, accusing him of withholding needed documents on the Flint water crisis.
  99. All the White House and ex-White House officials who refused to answer questions at the Russia hearings can expect to be called back, subpoenas in hand.
  100. Transportation Security Administration officials have been resisting calls to testify about the agency’s problems in securing airports. Democratic control would guarantee subpoenas.
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