Commentary: Why the Democratic House could sink Donald Trump

Pelosi says Democrats' approach to subpoena power will be "strategic"

Is President Trump prepared to face the "subpoena cannon"? And is unending political warfare what the midterm voters wanted?

Axios.com quoted a senior Democratic source on Monday who said the new Nancy Pelosi-led Congress (and yes, Pelosi will be the next speaker) is preparing a "subpoena cannon" to unload on the Trump White House.

And "cannon" is right. Though the votes are still being counted in at least three states, Democrats have already identified at least 85 different targets, according to Axios, for their new investigatory powers. No, that's not a typo: 85 potential investigations.

And counting.

I have seen the future of American politics and it's 85 #RussiaGates with a dozen committee-chair Bob Muellers camped out round-the-clock on cable TV. And, as Pelosi told The Atlantic on Friday, the Democrats' anti-Trump artillery can reach even farther. 

"Recognize one point," she said, "What Mueller might not think is indictable could be impeachable."

And there it is: The "I" word. In the months leading up to the midterms, Democrats insisted they had no interested in impeachment, no, no no. They just wanted to fix healthcare, maybe tinker with taxes. Republicans rejected this as political 'strategery' (as President George W. Bush might have said), promising that if Pelosi became Speaker on a Monday, the impeachment efforts would start on Tuesday.

It appears the Republican were onto something. "Top Democrats, who had largely avoided the subject during the campaign, now tell us they plan to almost immediately begin exploring possible grounds for impeachment," Axios reports.

To be fair, Pelosi also told the Atlantic that she doesn't want to impeach President Trump. And the future speaker told Margaret Brennan on "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "We are not scattershot...I think a word that you could describe about how Democrats will go forward in this regard is we will be very strategic."

So it's an "impeachment cannon" but it's not "scattershot." That may be unclear, but the ultimate conclusion is obvious: Democrats are coming after Trump. Bigly.

Republicans claim to be delighted by the prospect. The phrase "Democrats overplay their hand" is running on a Fox News loop. In a National Review piece entitled "Trump vs. Pelosi: A Match Made in Heaven," former Trump advisor Stephen Moore writes that with Pelosi in charge, "liberals are about to hand to the GOP the gift that just keeps giving…Trump finally has what he's been missing since he vanquished Crooked Hillary two years ago: a foil."

The pro-Trump spin has been that losing the House is really a win because it gives Trump something to run against—think Harry Truman in 1948.  And given the new majority's volatile mix of passionate progressives (like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York)   and suburb-friendly moderates (such as Pennsylvania's Conor Lamb), it's likely the House will be a source of intra-party squabbling and liberal excess. As Democrats learned—or should have—last year, one over-the-top speech from a Maxine Waters goes a long way.

That's what Republicans are telling themselves. What they aren't talking about—or even allowing themselves to think about—is the very real possibility that one of the House committees could come up with a smoking gun. And not just about Russia and collusion.

In fact, that's probably the least of the president's worries. The Russia collusion story always suffered from an improbable plot line. What could Russia really do to win an election for Trump? Facebook ads and Twitter bots? And what has he delivered in return? This is hardly the stuff of impeachment.

But President Trump's tax returns, his business practices, the overlap between his personal interests and administration actions, etc.? Donald Trump has left a long line of rocks to be overturned, and Democrats finally have their hands on the shovels. How confident are Republicans that a person as undisciplined and (ahem) ethically-elastic as Donald Trump hasn't left a single thing for them to find?

Trump supporters argue that their guy's been hit again and again already and nothing sticks. "Teflon Don," they say.

But now that Democrats have the ability to prosecute their case via committee hearings and televised testimony, will the Teflon hold? Trump is like a knife juggler. A 99 percent performance isn't good enough. It just takes one cut, one misstep and his presidency could end.

And now Democrats have access to the cutlery. Wait—make that a "cannon."