Two things were inevitable in the 2018 midterm elections: that a dead pimp would win a race in Nevada, and that the President of the United States would claim victory no matter what the result. Donald Trump stayed true to his formidable brand Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, whirling at an increasingly frenetic pace as he tried to spin the returns to his liking. He avoided tweeting Tuesday night until 11:14 p.m., when it was clear Democrats would seize control of the House of Representatives, breaking Republicans' one-party rule in the federal government and unleashing the investigatory and subpoena power of House committees on a Trump administration ripe for probing.
Here was his assessment.
Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
No politician eagerly admits defeat. But it's somewhat unusual for the U.S. president to then tweet quotes from the Ferris Buehler teacher suggesting he has "magic coming out of his ears." By the morning, though, it was the full-on Maytag spin cycle. First, we heard what Many People Are Saying:
Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
And then it was time to suggest the only reason anyone lost was they were insufficiently Trumpian.
Those that worked with me in this incredible Midterm Election, embracing certain policies and principles, did very well. Those that did not, say goodbye! Yesterday was such a very Big Win, and all under the pressure of a Nasty and Hostile Media!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
As some folks have already begun pointing out, many, many Republicans Trump explicitly endorsed-on Twitter and elsewhere-went down last night. That includes Lena Epstein, whom the vice president blamed for the Fake Fake Rabbi they recruited for a rally sh0rtly after an anti-Semitic domestic terror attack at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It includes John Faso, the New York Republican running against a Rhodes Scholar whom Faso's allies called a "big-city rapper" in ads. It includes Katie Arrington, whom Trump endorsed in the Republican primary in South Carolina's First District as revenge against critic Mark Sanford-only to see her lose to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the general.
That said, the enduring message of last night's results may well be that for Republicans, it's the Trumpier the Better. Some House Republicans who attempted to distance themselves from Trump, like Carlos Curbelo in Florida, still went down to defeat. While some True Trumpians also got canned, some of those that ran on unvarnished racial resentment-like Ron DeSantis in Florida, whom Trump singled out for praise this morning-took home the W. Two incumbent Republican congressmen who are currently under federal indictment for felony offenses, Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, both appear to have survived by hugging Trump and refusing to let go. Hunter cast his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, as a terrorist sympathizer in a shamelessly xenophobic propaganda campaign. Collins was the first sitting congressman to back Trump two years ago. The signs are that Republicans who remain in both houses of Congress will only move closer to the president.
But you could tell there were still other things on the mind of Donald Trump, American president. The talk once it became clear Democrats would take the House immediately moved to their newfound subpoena power, which will allow them to wage investigations into the relentlessly shady operators in Trump's administration. While blatantly corrupt cabinet officials like Flyin' Tom Price and Scott Pruitt have been forced out, others like Wilbur Ross-who it increasingly appears lied to Congress, may harbor conflicts of interest, and allegedly stole $120 million from various business partners in his prior career-persist. The Department of Interior Inspector General has referred an investigation into Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary, to the Justice Department.
That subpoena power could even provide access to Trump's jealously guarded tax returns. The returns could provide insight into Trump's tax-paying habits-or lack thereof-and his business interests, including whether they provide conflicts with his official duties or point to corruption. He is the first president since Richard Nixon to refuse to release them. This, the president essentially announced this morning, will be an almighty struggle:
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. Two can play that game!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
As a reminder to the various pundits already framing it as such, congressional oversight is not some vengeful attack on the president as a political enemy. It is a constitutional duty and a foundational element of the checks and balances inherent to a fully functioning democracy. But based on The Media's track record on The Caravan and a whole lot else, Trump may be able to successfully spin it into another partisan food fight. That way, when he fights the subpoena and the case goes to the Supreme Court and his hand-picked judge, Brett Kavanaugh, provides the decisive vote declaring executive privilege precludes him from having to abide by the subpoena, the pundits can chalk it up to another political Win for Team Trump.
But all that's in the future, and not necessarily written in stone. Even if a Democratic House was the expected result, and Republicans held the Senate and some key governorships, the president is surely of heavy mind this morning. Perhaps he's comforting himself with the sweet and familiar sounds of Fox & Friends, his favorite teevee show, which hosted someone this morning to declare that Actually, It's Good That Republicans Lost the House:
This is the cable-news pundit equivalent of the online staple, I'm Not Mad, I'm Actually Laughing. Perhaps the president and his pravda network really will have the last laugh. A lot will depend on how Democrats wield their new power, the product of a victory the president mostly refuses to publicly acknowledge-except when he's trolling Nancy Pelosi.
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