McConnell warns Democrats: ‘Presidential harassment’ could backfire

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Wednesday that if Democrats use their new House majority to aggressively pursue oversight of President Donald Trump and his administration, that would amount to “presidential harassment” and could backfire on the party.

Asked at a news conference in Washington, DC, what Senate Republicans could do if House Democrats go after the President’s tax returns, McConnell said, “The whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting. I remember when we tried it in the late ’90s. We impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up and ours went down and we underperformed in the next election.”

A Republican-controlled House impeached then-Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998, but the Senate declined to remove him from office.

McConnell added, “Democrats in the House will have to decide just how much presidential harassment they think is good strategy. I’m not so sure it will work for them.”

Democrats are gearing up to conduct extensive oversight of the President and his administration in the next Congress after winning the majority in the 2018 midterm elections. A Democratic-led House is expected to pursue the President’s tax returns and continue to probe issues such as potential collusion between the President’s campaign and Russia, which the President has adamantly denied.

McConnell said on Wednesday that he knows Democrats “aren’t interested” in his recommendations, but insisted he was only making a “historical observation.”

“All I’m doing is making a historical observation that the business of presidential harassment, which we were deeply engaged in in the late ’90s improved the President’s approval rating and tanked ours,” he said. “Thus my observation is that it might not be a smart strategy, but it’s up to them to decide how they want to handle that.”

On Wednesday morning, Trump suggested that if Democrats seek to investigate him, Senate Republicans could launch investigations of their own targeting Democrats.

“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!,” the President tweeted.

When asked about that statement, McConnell declined to speculate about whether the scenario the President outlined might come to pass. “I’d like to focus on finishing up this session,” he said. “We’ve got work left to do and we’ll see what happens next year.”

By Clare Foran, CNN