Wednesday’s blow-up between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was dramatic on its own, but it was all the more strange because the two sides had just taken a significant step toward cooperation hours before they opened fire on each other.
Just before Mrs. Pelosi accused Mr. Trump of a “cover-up,” his Justice Department and her intelligence committee chairman reached a deal to share more of special counsel Robert Mueller’s work with lawmakers.
Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, said Attorney General William P. Barr is providing material from a dozen aspects of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. In exchange, Mr. Schiff said he would not pursue a contempt of Congress charge or some other punishment right now.
When Mr. Schiff announced the deal in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, applause broke out, said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat.
Mr. Barr’s deal is the latest example of cooperation.
Donald Trump Jr. and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence struck a deal for him to testify behind closed doors in June, and the White House says it is cooperating with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on his investigation into security clearances at the White House.
That progress was made even though the president has said he would resist every subpoena from House Democrats and called the spate of inquiries “presidential harassment.”
Democrats, too, are acting in a less-combative way than their fierce rhetoric would suggest.
Though the Judiciary Committee has recommended holding Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing its request to turn over the complete Mueller report and boxes of supporting evidence, the full House has not taken a vote. Neither has there been action to sanction Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin for defying a subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns.
Ross Garber, who teaches political investigations and impeachment at Tulane University School of Law, said this is typical for Washington.
“People are shouting this is a constitutional crisis, but this is the constitutional process,” he said. “The executive branch and the legislative branch have a disagreement, and there are negotiations to settle the disagreement and accommodate each branch. This is a time-tested process that has generally worked since the time of Washington and Jefferson.”
The truce between Mr. Barr and Mr. Schiff is a win for both sides.
For Mr. Barr, it shows that members of the Trump administration are willing to work with Democrats to negotiate subpoena requests. It also undercuts complaints by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, that the attorney general is refusing to hand over documents for its myriad investigations into the president.
The deal also boosts Mr. Schiff’s efforts to view parts of the Mueller report that were initially shielded from lawmakers, possibly uncovering key information.
Mr. Schiff detailed the win as part of a special meeting of House Democrats on Wednesday morning, when Mrs. Pelosi had him and other committee chairs outline progress in their investigations.
“Schiff talked about that in the context of, ‘See, we are making progress,’” Mr. Connolly told reporters. “Our intrepid posture is paying off — subtext: ‘You don’t have to go to that other thing.’”
“That other thing” refers to impeachment, for which a growing number of Democrats are agitating.
Mrs. Pelosi appears to be trying to balance Democrats’ demands with the need to govern and cooperate with a Republican-led Senate and a Republican in the White House.
Yet minutes after Mr. Schiff announced his breakthrough, Mrs. Pelosi appeared to upset that balance by accusing the president of a cover-up.
“We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States,” she told reporters. “We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
Mr. Trump then canceled a meeting planned with Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, where they were slated to discuss infrastructure — one of the few areas of possible bipartisan cooperation.
The president said Democrats can either pursue investigations and the “I” word, or they can work on deals. But they can’t do both.
Some Democrats are content to go the impeachment route and are tiring of Mrs. Pelosi’s calls for patience.
Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat, said it makes no sense to wait for more investigations because they already have the Mueller report.
“Do we need another investigation? We were told to wait for this. We waited. We’re now going to start another investigation that in my opinion will diminish the political prowess, the actual political power of the Judiciary Committee,” he said.
Rep. Brad Sherman of California, another vocal supporter of impeaching the president, agreed that Democrats have sufficient evidence but still need to sway public opinion to their side.
Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, who first called for an impeachment inquiry Monday evening, said that while Mr. Schiff’s deal with the Justice Department was a step in the right direction, he still plans to push to begin the impeachment process.
“It sounds like the Department of Justice is beginning to comply, at least in part, with subpoenas. That’s a good sign. One has to assume that’s at least in part because of the court decision,” he told reporters.
He was referring to a decision by an Obama-appointed federal judge this week that held Congress has wide latitude to pursue investigations and it’s not up to the courts or the administration to peer too closely at their reasoning.
Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled that the House could order one of Mr. Trump’s accounting firms to turn over his financial records.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York issued a similar ruling applying to several other accountants used by Mr. Trump.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.