Even a global pandemic and economic crisis isn’t enough to break President Trump’s perception of the Democratic House as a den of haters and losers who care more about hurting him than about helping the American public.
Asked on Tuesday why he wasn’t permitting members of his coronavirus task force to testify in front of the House, Trump responded that the chamber is a “set-up” that’s full of “Trump haters.”
“They,” said Trump, “frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death.”
It was a remarkable bit of open political retaliation that not only undercut the White House’s official line—that individuals like Dr. Anthony Fauci were too busy fighting the pandemic to spend hours before Congress—but also set up a situation where only the president’s own party would be in charge of hearings into his conduct. Indeed, shortly after Trump spoke, the Republican-run Senate Health panel announced that Fauci would be testifying there next week.
“It’s so political. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who serves as the House Democratic representative on the not-yet-functional panel to oversee COVID-19 spending. “I can’t remember anyone preventing us from testifying in one house of Congress versus another… To not go to the People’s House is just—it’s stupid, and it’s dangerous.”
Congressional oversight has always been an irritant to the occupant of the White House. But rarely has a president so blatantly disregarded it when the context has been so non-partisan and the stakes so high. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, Trump’s defiance of Congress had prompted legal battles that promised to rearrange the long-term balance of federal power. But his insistence on continuing to snub the legislative branch in the midst of a pandemic has sparked an altogether new set of questions and frustrations.