Have Democrats dropped the ball on pledge to hold Trump accountable?

Image: Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, on May 23, 2019. Copyright James Lawler Duggan Reuters
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Three months after his 448-page report was made public and two months after he issued a statement to reporters, former special counsel Robert Mueller finally testifies today before Congress.

And it underscores just how ineffective Democratic oversight of President Trump and his administration has been so far during the more than six months since Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives — especially given all of the possible targets.

One of the key arguments to put Democrats in charge of Congress, as Andrew Sullivan writes, was that they'd:

  • Serve as a check on Trump if anything emerged from Mueller's probe;
  • Investigate the president's tax returns;
  • Zero in on alleged wrongdoing and corruption inside the administration.

Instead, per the Washington Post, House Democrats "have struggled to unearth major findings, hold high-profile hearings that move public sentiment or follow up on inquiries they laid out when the party took the majority in January."

Compare that with how Republicans exercised their oversight powers during the Obama years. And we'd argue that Donald Trump isn't president today without the GOP's select committee on Benghazi - which uncovered Hillary Clinton's private email system.

There's no doubt that Democrats have struggled in their oversight because of the Trump administration's fierce resistance.

It was just yesterday that Trump filed a lawsuit to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his state tax returns through a recently passed New York law.

There's also no doubt that real oversight takes a lot of time, though future oversight seems more like an epilogue with the Democratic presidential debates already under way.

Still, the lack of urgency from Democrats — like Mueller testifying three months after his report became public, or not taking former White House counsel Don McGahn to court to force his testimony — only sends the message to average voters that holding Trump's feet to the fire isn't that big of a deal.

Which isn't quite what Democrats promised in 2018.

How Mueller Day is going to go down

NBC's Alex Moe breaks down how today's testimony from Robert Mueller is expected to unfold in his back-to-back hearings:

  • The first hearing (at the House Judiciary Committee) gets underway at 8:30 am ET, and it will last approximately three hours.
  • There will be a short break.
  • Then the second hearing (at the House Intelligence Committee) will begin roughly at noon ET, and it will last about two and a half hours.

Remembering Mueller's message from May

Given Mueller's reputation for being understated and for always operating by the book, it's important to remember what he emphasized to the American public when he spoke on May 29.

"I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments — that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interference in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American"

Well guess what subject hasn't really received that much attention since then?

2020 Vision: These go to 10

Ahead of the second presidential debate next week in Detroit, 10 candidates are gathering in the Motor City this morning to address the 110th convention of the NAACP, per NBC's Deepa Shivaram and Marianna Sotomayor.

The 10 candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bill Weld (who is the only Republican challenging Trump).

Throughout the week at the NAACP confab, 10,000 attendees have heard a similar message from speakers like Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Stacey Abrams - don't sit this election out. Get engaged, get to the polls and get Donald Trump out of the White House.

Both Harris and Biden are expected to talk about their criminal justice plans, and other plans to elevate black Americans, at the convention today, Shivaram and Sotomayor add.


The two candidates, whose back-and-forth on busing lasted for weeks after the last debate, will share the stage again next week in Detroit.

Biden is expected to mention details of his comprehensive plan to lessen the rate of incarceration, invest in communities with high rates of arrest and helping those leaving jail reenter society.

On the campaign trail today

Also in Michigan today, Harris holds a rally with an SEIU union in Detroit; O'Rourke has a town hall in Flint; and Booker also travels to Flint… John Hickenlooper continues to campaign in Iowa… Kirsten Gillibrand delivers a foreign-policy speech in Chicago… And Buttigieg holds a grassroots fundraising event in San Francisco.

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Last night, Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren spoke at the Unite Here rally at Reagan National airport in D.C., in support of airline workers protesting low wages. NBC's Benjamin Pu has the highlights:

"Sanders, de Blasio, and Warren spoke to Airline Catering Workers and supporters at DCA. Workers are protesting poor wages and health care from American Airlines. Sanders, de Blasio, and Warren all spoke about the need to fight corporate greed and fight for better health care and better wages. Sanders and Warren did not refer to their presidential campaigns or ambitions. De Blasio, on the other hand, spoke at length about his campaign for president."


Data Download: The number of the day is … 65 percent

Sixty-five percent.

That's the share of Americans who say they are confident that former special counsel Robert Mueller conducted a fair investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, according to the Pew Research Center.

That's a high watermark since the organization started polling public confidence in Mueller in December 2017.

The reason for the high number? A record 60 percent of Republicans say they have faith in the fairness of the probe, up from 39 percent in January of this year. That was before the release of a redacted report that the president has pointed to as vindication for "no collusion!", even though the report pointedly declined to completely exonerate Trump from charges of obstruction.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Hold onto your butts

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we explained why the Mueller report is a little like "Jurassic Park."


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Here's everything you need to know about Mueller's testimony, from our Hill team.

Afghan leaders are calling for "clarification" after Trump's offhand reference to a military solution that would "wip[e] the country off the face of the earth."

A U.S. citizen has now been released after nearly a month in federal immigration custody.

Trump finally has a new Defense secretary.

Some 2020 Democratic candidates want to expand the Supreme Court. One of their favorite justices says that's a bad idea.


Don't miss what Sherrod Brown said about Joe Biden — and his own decision not to run in 2020.

Trump agenda: Yeah, Article II doesn't say that

The Constitution does not, in fact, give the president the right to do "whatever I want."

The GOP used to talk a lot about the debt and deficits. Whatever happened to that?

What's next for Britain — and the U.S. — as Boris Johnson assumes the top job?

The Senate has (finally) passed that 9/11 compensation bill.


Democrats behind the scenes are frustrated with the pace of investigations into the president, the Washington Post writes.

2020: Priorities, priorities, priorities

Dem group Priorities USA is launching a big digital ad campaign.

Black voters say they're not going to let Trump's tweets about race slide.

And Joe Biden is launching a new effort to shore up black support.

Cory Booker is going for a new tactic: tough love.

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