Last week the news broke that a new study has found that there were nearly 3,000 excess deaths in Puerto Rico in the six months after Hurricane Maria, a number far higher than previously estimated.
Though the study claimed not to have determined why these deaths took place, ABC News points out that the toll “calls attention” to President Donald Trump’s repeated boasting about his administration’s response to the disaster. As ABC reminds us, Trump was embroiled in public battles with local Puerto Rico officials throughout the most difficult moments in the disaster’s aftermath.
There is no doubt plenty of blame to go around. The governor of Puerto Rico has admitted that many mistakes were made and that local government’s response systems were inadequate.
But still, there is probably a great deal we don’t know about the Trump administration’s response. And we might not ever learn more.
Which raises an interesting point: A Democratic takeover of the House could have important consequences, not just because it would mean serious investigations of all the stuff we talk about constantly - Trump’s tax returns, self-dealing, Emoluments Clause violations, financial dealings with Russia, potential conspiracy to sabotage our election, etc., etc.
A Dem takeover could also matter because it would mean serious investigations of the Trump administration’s governing fiascoes.
Consider that memo circulated by House Republicans that Axios reported on this week, which lays out investigations that Republicans anticipate Democrats will launch if they take control of the House. Naturally, it talks about Russia, Trump’s tax returns and his business arrangements.
But the memo also says Republicans expect probes into the administration’s Puerto Rico response, and into the creation of policies like the thinly veiled Muslim ban and the cruel and destructive family separations policy.
It is hard to say exactly what such investigations would accomplish at this point, since these policies have been up and running for months or years and have already done extensive damage. But these are very ripe areas for investigation, because the processes behind them have long given rise to serious, lingering questions.
The Muslim ban, for instance, was rolled out in horribly slapdash fashion, and moved forward despite two Department of Homeland Security studies undercutting its “national security” rationale.
These things strongly suggested that the policy was rooted in a bad-faith desire to just get as close as possible to fulfilling Trump’s bigoted, off-the-cuff vow of an actual Muslim ban, with no serious regard for its actual consequences or implementation challenges once in office. We learned about that horrible process and the flimsiness of its rationale through leaks. What else don’t we know about the creation of this policy?
Meanwhile, the Trump administration proceeded with family separations after being warned by officials that it could result in psychological trauma to immigrant children.
This is one area where there has been some congressional oversight, but more could surely produce additional revelations about this policy’s creation and the “reasoning” behind it.
Or take Obamacare. As Nicholas Bagley and Abbe Gluck detailed, the sheer volume of sabotage tactics the administration has used to undermine the law, and the absurd rationales for them, suggest that in reality, the administration is “transparently” acting in “bad faith” to “destroy Congress’ handiwork,” something the GOP Congress failed to do itself. We all know Trump just wants to crush the law because it is Barack Obama’s signature achievement, and thus the sabotage will continue. Could real oversight shed more light on the administration’s obvious lack of good faith here, too?
On multiple fronts, the administration’s planning, execution and justification for major policy changes have been absolutely saturated from bad faith from top to bottom.
Crucially, there is likely a lot more - and a lot worse - to come. This is another thing that has been to no small degree enabled by the protection of the GOP-controlled House - and could perhaps be mitigated, or at least illuminated, by a Democratic one.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant - what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.