Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper
Trump warns of â€˜war-likeâ€™ posture if Democrats investigate White House
Reuters, Washington :
Donald Trump was buoyed by victories that added to the Republican majority in the US Senate.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed to jettison any attempt at bipartisanship and fight back if the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives used its powers to press investigations into his administration.
Trump, speaking during a combative news conference in which he tangled with reporters and trumpeted his role in Republican gains in Tuesday's midterm congressional elections, warned he would adopt a "warlike posture" if Democrats investigated him.
Democrats will now head House committees that can probe the president's tax returns, which he has refused to turn over, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia, a matter being investigated by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump was buoyed by victories that added to the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, telling reporters at the White House that the gains outweighed the Democrats' takeover of the House. He added that he was willing to work with Democrats on key priorities but felt any investigations of his administration would hurt prospects for bipartisanship.
"They can play that game, but we can play it better," Trump said of the possibility of Democratic investigations. "All you're going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won't have done a thing."
The divided power in Congress combined with Trump's expansive view of executive power could herald even deeper political polarization and legislative gridlock in Washington.
There may be some room, however, for Trump and Democrats to work together on issues with bipartisan support such as a package to improve infrastructure, protections against prescription drug price increases and in the push to rebalance trade with China.
"It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation," Trump said.
He said Nancy Pelosi, who could be the next speaker of the House, had expressed to him in a phone call a desire to work together. With Democrats mulling whether to stick with Pelosi, who was speaker when the party last controlled the House, or go in a new direction, Trump wrote in a tweet earlier that she deserves to be chosen for the position.
Pelosi, at a news conference on Capitol Hill, said Democrats would be willing to work with Trump where possible, but added, "We have a constitutional responsibility to have oversight."
"I don't think we'll have any scattershot freelancing in terms of this. We will have a responsibility to honour our oversight responsibilities and that's the path we will go down.
We again (will) try to unify our country," she said.
The Democrats fell short of a tidal wave of voter support that would have won them control of both chambers of Congress. But in the 435-member House, the party was headed for a gain of around 30 seats, beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in eight years.
A Senate majority would have allowed Democrats to apply even firmer brakes on Trump's policy agenda and given them the ability to block any future Supreme Court nominees.
House Democrats could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico and pass a second major tax-cut package. Legislators could also demand more transparency from Trump as he negotiates new trade deals with Japan and the European Union.
"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans; it's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," Pelosi told supporters at a victory party Tuesday night.
Trump also mocked Republican candidates who had refused to back his policies and ultimately lost their races, such as U.S. Representative Barbara Comstock of Virginia.
"They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad but I feel just fine about it," he said.
U.S. stocks jumped on Wednesday as investors, who often favour Washington gridlock because it preserves the status quo and reduces uncertainty, bought back into a market that had its worst month in seven years in October.
A Democrat-controlled House could hamper Trump's attempts to further his pro-business agenda, fuelling uncertainty about his administration. His corporate tax cuts and the deregulation that have played a large hand in the U.S. stock market's rally since the 2016 election, however, are likely to remain untouched.
"With the Democrats taking over the House, we will now have to see what gridlock in Congress means for policy. As for the market impact, a split Congress has historically been bullish for equities and we expect to see the same pattern again," said Torsten Slok, chief international economist for Deutsche Bank.