WASHINGTON – Following President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday in which he called for an end to “ridiculous, partisan investigations,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said Wednesday the House will continue its probes and increase oversight of potential ethics violations by the administration.
In a press briefing, Hoyer said that Congress has “a constitutional responsibility” to continue to investigate whether there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was collusion in those efforts by the Trump campaign – and possibly by Trump himself.
“If it was a threat, then it was unfortunate,” Hoyer said of Trump’s assertion that there cannot be effective bipartisan governance with ongoing investigations. “It certainly is not going to have any impact on the responsibility that Congress has to oversee the operations of government, the honesty of government.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement Wednesday that the Democratic Party needs to put “the public interest ahead of political spite.”
Trump, he said, “offered a chance to walk together, unified, along a higher road. Both the tone and the substance of his speech would strike any fair observer as reasonable and thoroughly bipartisan.”
Hoyer insisted that the investigations are not political, adding it was ironic that Republicans would disapprove of oversight efforts of a president who has had “almost daily chaos and crisis and (has made) a considerable effort to undermine education, the environment and healthcare processes.”
Hoyer’s comments came on the same day that the House Intelligence Committee voted to send more than 50 transcripts of the panel’s witness testimonies to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Those statements potentially could be used to make perjury cases.
Hoyer also emphasized that House Democrats are pushing for a broad reform bill that would change ethics and campaign finance laws, improve voting procedures and boost government transparency. Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement for Trump to release his tax returns.
“It is important that the American people know whether the president is acting on their behalf or in his interest,” Hoyer said. “Therefore, financial disclosure is important.”
The House’s No. 2 Democrat also addressed the possibility of another government shutdown, saying that it would not be “an acceptable alternative.”
Despite his confidence that a bipartisan deal would be reached in time for next Friday’s deadline, Hoyer seemed concerned that the president might not sign it. He said that negotiations were moving forward, and he wanted to believe the president would sign a bill if it successfully passed the House and Senate.
But after a pause, Hoyer added: “Am I sure of that? No.”
In December, the president changed his mind on McConnell’s continuing resolution funding the government without border wall funding, a measure that had support from the then-Republican House.
Recalling that reversal, Hoyer said, “I don’t think any of us can be confident.”