How a Democratic-controlled House can get to the bottom of Trump’s shady finances
After the New York Times published a year-long investigation into President Donald Trump’s finances that annihilates his carefully crafted image of being a self-made billionaire and uncovered instances in which he engaged in “outright fraud,” many are wondering whether he will face consequences for his alleged financial misdeeds.
The answer is yes — if Democrats win control of the House in November. That’s because with control of the House comes control of the House Oversight Committee, a powerful investigative arm of Congress that has the ability to probe a wide array of issues within the federal government.
“I think it’s going to be the most consequential impact of the midterms if Congress flips,” Kurt Bardella, who served as a spokesman and senior strategist at the House Oversight Committee from 2009 until 2013 under GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, said in an interview. Bardella has since switched parties to become a Democrat and vocal critic of Trump and Republicans.
By controlling the reins of the House Oversight Committee, Democrats could subpoena Trump’s tax returns, which Democrats have been seeking since the early days of the 2016 campaign.
A Democratic-controlled Oversight Committee could also launch investigations into Trump’s businesses and how federal tax dollars are used at Trump properties as well as hush money payments to women who said they had affairs with Trump.
Trump’s current and former cabinet officials would also be at risk of investigations for policies such as the child separation at the U.S. border and how the officials used tax dollars for private air travel.
“The thing about the Oversight Committee is that it has oversight over everything,” Bardella said. “It is purposefully broad in its jurisdiction. There’s a reason why the committee itself has a very narrow legislative focus, because while the other com[mittees] exist to make pub[lic] policy, the Oversight Committee exists to ... conduct oversight over the entire federal government.”
Republicans have used the oversight committee to launch investigations into the Obama administration, including the IRS’ so-called targeting of conservative groups’ tax exempt status, launched in 2013. That scandal ended up being a nothingbuger. But it did give the GOP a galvanizing issue for its base during some of the final years of the Obama administration.
The GOP-controlled House also voted to create a select committee on the 2012 embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, which uncovered former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server use that helped lead to her political downfall in 2016.
A Democratic House could create similar investigative committees on topics, such as Trump’s taxes, corruption within the federal government or any other issue — posing a risk to Trump and the Republican Party as a whole.
“[There are] things we know about because of strong investigative reporting by the media, but imagine what it’s going to be like when Congress has the ability to compel cooperation from the entire federal government,” Bardella said. “I think thematically for Trump, who cast himself as this problem-solving businessman fixer, it will demonstrate how he has presided over an incompetent and potentially corrupt government, and I think that could do him a lot of grave harm in the long run.”
Meanwhile, the New York State Tax Department announced Tuesday it is looking into the allegations that Trump was part of an illegal tax fraud scheme. The NYSTD told ABC News it is “vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” though criminal charges are not in the cards, as the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes has passed.