U.S. President Donald Trump gives the thumbs up while speaking to members of the media before departing for the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting on the South Lawn of White House in Washington, D.C (Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg)

Trump Vows ‘War-Like Posture’ If Democrats Investigate Him

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump warned of a “war-like posture” if Democrats use their newly won control of the House to launch investigations into his administration, even as he lavished praise on an opposition party leader he has repeatedly attacked on the campaign trail.

Trump said he wouldn’t cooperate with Democrats on policy matters if they torment him with inquiries, adding they would risk public “investigation fatigue” and retribution from the Republican-controlled Senate.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better,” Trump said Wednesday at a White House news conference. He cited “questionable things” done by Democrats, including “leaks of classified information.”

Trump Vows ‘War-Like Posture’ If Democrats Investigate Him

Moments later he reversed his typically antagonistic tone toward Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who is in line to return as House speaker after Democrats won the chamber’s majority in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“We actually have a great relationship,” Trump said of Pelosi. “I give her a great deal of credit for what she’s done and what she’s accomplished.” He even offered, perhaps sarcastically, to persuade Republican lawmakers to vote for her as speaker if some Democratic members refuse to support her.

Pelosi “loves this country, and she’s a very smart woman,” Trump said, adding that he had “a very warm conversation” with her on Tuesday.

Pelosi’s Response

Pelosi, speaking in a press conference following Trump’s, signaled that Democrats have investigation plans ready.

Trump Vows ‘War-Like Posture’ If Democrats Investigate Him

“We have a constitutional responsibility to have oversight,” Pelosi said. "This doesn’t mean we go looking for a fight." She added that she hopes the administration will respond to requests for information voluntarily, but regarding a possible inquiry into the policy of separating families at the border, she said: “If that requires a subpoena, so be it.”

Trump raised the possibility of reaching an agreement with Democrats on so-called Dreamers -- undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children -- after talks of a bipartisan agreement failed earlier this year. “We were very close to a deal” before, he said. He also said he’d consider any Democratic proposal for a middle-class tax cut “even if it means some adjustment,” including raising corporate taxes.

Democrats’ takeover of the House in January will allow them to force administration officials to testify and provide documents. That will subject Trump’s decision-making -- as well as his personal finances and potential conflicts of interest -- to deeper public and private examination by key committees, as the national focus shifts to the 2020 presidential election.

Asked how he would respond to an order from House Democrats to provide his tax returns, he repeated past statements he first made during the presidential campaigns that he wanted to wait until audits are completed.

For the past two years, Republicans have subjected Trump to relatively little oversight, spurning most requests from the minority party. Democrats say that will change almost immediately when the 116th Congress opens on Jan. 3. They have a long list of topics they plan to look into, including financial deregulation, Trump’s business interests and Russia’s election interference.

Drawing Lines

Trump began began drawing lines against Democratic inquiries into his administration early in the day with a Twitter posting.

"If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level," the president said on Twitter.

Democrats say that when it comes to the administration’s response, for example, to the “caravan” of Central American immigrants, they want answers about the rationale behind the troop deployments and details on the force’s rules of engagement.

“It’s not like we’re going to go drunk-crazy with subpoenas. But it may seem that way because we are coming off a two-year drought of no subpoenas,” said Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Oversight subcommittee on government operations.

Democrats say they want to pursue unanswered questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election and end what they call a campaign by House Republicans to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.