US Democrats win the House of Reps, give notice to Mr Trump

US President Donald Trump (left) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on November 11, 2017. Trump mortally fears investigations about Russia's meddling of US elections in 2016. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The issue that had infuriated Trump about Sessions was the fact he opted not to interfere with the investigation and did what they call to recuse himself.

  • Whitaker is giving no such assurance, and the Democrats are not amused.

President Donald Trump is playing a dangerous political game of brinkmanship. His recent firing of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and his replacement with a Yes-man called Matthew Whitaker has opened an early battlefront with the US House of Representatives. The Democratic Party wrested control of the lower House of Congress from Trump’s Republican Party in the November 6 midterm Congressional elections, and they are raring to press their advantage.


The outcry against Trump is the suspicion that he wants to use Whitaker, an avowed loyalist, to interfere with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Trump collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a charge Trump bitterly denies. Whitaker had given statements in a previous life as a media commentator castigating Mueller’s investigation, and suggesting that the Special Counsel was overreaching.


The issue that had infuriated Trump about Sessions was the fact he opted not to interfere with the investigation and did what they call to recuse himself. Whitaker is giving no such assurance, and the Democrats are not amused. What is more, Trump bypassed the more senior Deputy A-G, Rod Rosenstein, when appointing Whitaker as acting A-G. Rosenstein is seen as a more independent official who has not sought to hinder the Mueller investigation.


Trump mortally fears this investigation, which already has led to the indictment and possible jailing of key business and campaign underlings. But it would be a great political mistake on his part to fire Mueller, which he could conceivably instruct his new A-G to do. That would open a nasty can of worms in Congress. Even his fellow Republicans have said they won’t tolerate that. To the legislators, it would openly signal Trump’s disdain for the rule of law, which has provisions for Special Counsels. Who knows, the subsequent chain of events could even lead to impeachment proceedings.


The Democrats are threatening a constant barrage of harassment. They intend to open investigative hearings in the House of Representatives, where they will control all key committees. They intend to target all manner of shenanigans, from Trump’s business activities and his suspected conflicts of interest. In particular they are very keen on why he has never made public his tax returns from the time he was running for president.


Trump is not the sort who will take the challenges lying down. Despite the loss of the House of Representatives, he remains in a fairly strong position, though not as strong as before. He still has the White House, plus his Republicans control the Senate, the upper chamber of Congress. The Senate is particularly crucial: It has the ultimate say on whether to impeach or not. Further, Trump has, in a fairly short time, packed the Supreme Court with like-minded judges who may overturn any negative findings from Mueller’s investigation that could seriously threaten the Trump presidency.


The midterm elections registered some very interesting results. Democrats emphatically won in the well-off, better educated urban and suburban centres. The Republicans held sway in the rural parts. Commentators have been telling us about two Americas — one progressive, and the other comprising displaced industrial workers allied with "Bible Belt" evangelical Christians. The latter implicitly buy into Trump’s conservative, if strident, agenda.


Or, in fact, one could say it is Trump who cynically bought into the conservative agenda simply so that he could get elected in 2016. Democrats also came across as the party of diversity, with a strong showing by minorities. Women did very well, bringing in a record batch of 96 Congresswomen. They counted African-Americans, Asian-Americans, even a couple of Muslim Americans who included a young Somali-American, Ilhan Omar.

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I agree with the Daily Nation writer who noted recently that "if you think matatu operators are rogue, you have not encountered boda boda riders." The problem with Kenyans is lack of discipline, and the boda boda guys epitomise this national problem. What’s so difficult about respecting traffic lights? I have noticed these riders never do that in Nairobi’s Central Business District. What surprises me is how the police and City Council enforcers are so lenient with them.


City Hall has previously sponsored its MCAs to visit Kigali. They should have noticed how boda bodas there are disciplined, and how the owners must provide for two helmets: one for the rider and the other for his passenger. This is strictly enforced. And they keep to traffic rules. I don’t know what kind of "benchmarking" these city honchos go to do abroad when they miss such simple things.

I witnessed first-hand the wages of boda boda lawlessness when I once visited a police station in Athi River on a traffic matter. The policeman on duty pointed to rows upon rows of wrecked motorcycles and told me that the highest fatalities reported to them were caused by boda bodas.