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Empowered, Emboldened House Democrats Chart Path Forward

WASHINGTON — Washington is adjusting to an impending power shift after Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s elections. Democrats are promising to hold President Donald Trump accountable and protect the Justice Department’s Russia probe, but are also stressing the need to deliver tangible results that address the American people’s everyday concerns.

The power shift will come in January, when House Democrats will have the majority they need to investigate the Trump administration. But Democrats slated to lead key committees, like Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) of the House Oversight Committee, are promising judicious use of that power.

“I am not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody handing our candy on Halloween.… We have got a lot to do, so I am laser-focused, laser-focused on those issues that even President Trump says he wants to work on, such as prescription drug prices,” said Cummings, speaking on ABC’s This Week program.

Even so, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) of the House Judiciary Committee says more congressional scrutiny of the Trump administration is on the way.

“We will hold the president accountable. He will learn that he is accountable, that he is not above the law,” said Nadler, also speaking on ABC’s This Week.

Trump says he is not worried about what House Democrats will do.

“They can look at us, we can look at them. And it will go back and forth. All of this is a warlike posture,” the president said.

Protection of Russia probe

Democrats are blasting Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department after the president’s firing of attorney general Jeff Sessions last week. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has repeatedly criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election meddling and possible collusion by Trump’s inner circle.

Nadler says that Whitaker’s appointment “is simply part of an attack on the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. It is part of a pattern of interference by the president.”

Senate Democrats and a few Republicans are renewing a push for legislation to make it harder for the White House to dismiss Mueller, insisting the probe must be completed. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) says the effort requires a bipartisan push.

“Now more than ever, a functioning democracy requires Democrats and Republicans to come together, to take action next week to protect special counsel Mueller’s investigation. Because if we do not and Donald Trump is given license to shut down an investigation into his own potential wrongdoing, then our nation starts to devolve into a banana republic,” Murphy said.

The Senate’s top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) says Trump is no threat to Mueller’s work.

“There has never been any indication that he (Trump) wants to dismiss Mueller or the investigation,” McConnell said.

The White House, meanwhile, flatly denies that any collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice took place. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, says the White House has been cooperating with the probe.

“We have already been very compliant with the Mueller investigation – 1.4 million pieces of paper produced, 33 and counting individuals who have been interviewed or asked to produce information,” said Conway, who also spoke on ABC’s This Week.

Progressive activists are pressing for impeachment of Trump. But top House Democrats insist such talk is premature and that any steps to sanction the president must be carefully weighed and supported by concrete evidence.

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