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Sen. Casey: Trump's threat against congressional investigations 'ridiculous, insulting'

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., speaks to WHP from Capitol Hill on Feb. 6, 2019. (WHP)

Amid his appeals for bipartisanship and compromise in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump suggested to Democrats they must choose between investigating his administration and working with it to move the country forward.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”

The memorable rhyme pleased some Republicans, but Democrats have recoiled at the suggestion that congressional oversight and legislation are mutually exclusive.

“It’s a ridiculous, insulting statement,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn. “It’s also dangerous.”

Republicans downplayed the comment as an expression of frustration rather than defiance.

“He understands Congress has legitimate oversight responsibilities but there’s a line between oversight and harassment,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., believes Trump was responding to the aggressive new tone of House Democrats who are frequently threatening investigations and subpoenas.

“I agree with him in some sense,” she said. “I’m for oversight and transparency, but not used as a harassment tool.”

Trump repeatedly called upon lawmakers to reject “resistance” and instead help him achieve results.

“We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction,” he said. “Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.”

Democrats took all of this as a thinly-veiled threat to gum up legislative progress if they pursue what they consider to be justified investigations of the administration, but some Republicans say the president had a point. Comity and cooperation are hard to find when one side is trying to throw the other out of office or into jail.

“I think the drive of many on the left to impeach this president will hinder our ability to find bipartisan solutions,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Davis pointed to the late 90s as an example of what happens when Congress is consumed with impeaching a president. He recalled a conversation with former Rep. Ray LaHood, who presided over impeachment hearings for President Bill Clinton.

“I asked him, ‘Did bipartisan things like an infrastructure bill get during impeachment?’ He said, ‘Nothing gets done during impeachment.’ That’s what I think the president was talking about,” Davis said.

Trump was not specific about which “ridiculous partisan investigations” are threatening economic prosperity and world peace, but the president often complains about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president regularly insists the probe is a wasteful witch hunt orchestrated by corrupt Democrats.

“Unfortunately, the president seems to have contempt for the rule of law,” Casey said. “He seems to have contempt for our basic system of checks and balances and accountability.”

Trump’s words echoed a statement made by president Richard Nixon at the 1974 State of the Union address in the midst of the Watergate investigation.

“I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end,” Nixon said. “One year of Watergate is enough.”

Congress did not listen to Nixon. Democrats seem similarly unlikely to accede to Trump’s request.

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