News & Politics

Democrats Plan Star-Chamber Investigation into Trump's Response to Pandemic

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, joined at left by Rep. Carolyn Maloney at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

People are still getting sick and dying from the coronavirus, but when did that ever stop a politician from trying to score points against the political opposition?

With the country on its knees, Democrats want to kneecap Trump and the Republicans by trying to blame the president for however many deaths result from the pandemic. They will investigate the administration’s response to the crisis — especially the earliest days of the outbreak when no one knew how bad things were going to get.

That won’t matter to Democrats who will say Trump should have known and spent billions of dollars preparing for something that might not have happened.

There’s plenty to criticize about Trump’s response. As Dr. Fauci has pointed out, not all of it was Trump’s fault. But shouldn’t Congress wait a while before trying to hang the president? The voters will make their own judgment of Trump’s response in November and won’t need any help from Democrats.

Apparently, Democrats don’t want to leave anything to chance.


The people familiar with the discussions said expectations are low for a review that has broad bipartisan support in Congress and the backing of the White House, particularly in an election year.

“I don’t know that you would get administration buy-in for something like that,” a senior administration official said. “Then, if the Democrats do one, it’s all one-sided.”

Any plan for a review that was tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act would require support from Senate Republicans and the White House.

Democrats in the House don’t need approval from anyone. They can set up their own little star-chamber investigation and go from there. They will have the power to subpoena witnesses, hold them in contempt if they don’t testify, and will no doubt get wall-to-wall, gavel-to-gavel coverage from the media.

Mission accomplished.

And the House Oversight and Reform Committee has already begun asking questions about the lack of access to testing early on in the crisis, even as Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., says the committee will dig deeply into the administration’s response after the crisis is over.

“The committee’s top priority is the health and safety of the American people, so we have been working to push the administration to identify and fix problems and to share more accurate information with the public,” Maloney said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the administration has mishandled this entire crisis, and our committee will certainly be engaged in robust oversight to review what happened and how to avoid these mistakes in the future.”

They’ll have to get a move on if they want to get anything done before November. But the normally glacial pace of proceedings in Congress can move at warp speed when it comes to an election-winning issue. And that’s what Democrats think they have. Most Democrats have been shy about directly blaming Trump for virus deaths. But Nancy Pelosi signaled last weekend that the gloves are off and anything goes.

It’s perhaps unavoidable that even something as tragic as the pandemic should give rise to partisan warfare. But politics stands still for no one and nothing — including the coronavirus.