Trump really is building a wall—right across Washington
It’s absolutely not unusual for the White House to push back against requests from Congress. Scrabbling to the edge of Article I and Article II powers has been an issue since the Washington administration, and there’s a good argument to be made that the blurriness of the line is intentional. Not only were the boundaries of the executive and legislative branches built as a compromise by people concerned that nailing those lines down too firmly might threaten support for an already fragile agreement, but they were also defined vaguely enough to handle issues from recording tapes to Twitter accounts. It shouldn’t be surprising that almost every administration, including those of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, has bumped heads with Congress over where the limits of executive power are.
But that doesn’t mean that what Donald Trump is doing is in any way normal. As the New York Times reports, Trump “is definitely building a wall—but it is between the White House and the House of Representatives.” That “wall” is Trump blocking every document requested by the House, and ordering every member of his staff, even those who have received subpoenas, to lock their lips. That absolute denial didn’t start with the Mueller report; it started as soon as Democrats took control of the House. However, since Attorney General William Barr reaffirmed his position that Trump can do no wrong in the eyes of the DOJ, Trump has been adamant about enforcing his ban on any information reaching Congress.
Trump’s D.C. wall means that not only can Congress not follow up on the items Mueller left to it on questions of obstruction—and still-open issues of potential conspiracy—but that normal day-to-day oversight functions are also at a standstill. Congress’ ability to look in on what’s happening at the EPA, the IRS, the Interior Department, is entirely on hold as Trump clamps down.
Trump’s announcement that the White House will be “fighting all the subpoenas” isn’t a constitutional crisis on the horizon. It’s a crisis already underway.
That crisis was kicked into a higher gear this week when Barr showed that he wasn’t just willing to give Trump a pass on obstruction, but was also willing to support Trump’s play by prohibiting any testimony from Justice Department official John Gore. Gore’s appearance had nothing to do with Mueller. Nothing to do with Trump’s 2016 campaign. And blocking his appearance is an absolute signal that Trump intends to redraw the boundary line of what he controls, all the way around Capitol Hill.