McConnell Warns Democrats That ‘Presidential Harassment’ Might Backfire

November 7, 2018 Updated: November 7, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned House Democrats on Nov. 7 that pursuing a campaign of harassing President Donald Trump under their new majority over the next two years “might not be a smart strategy.”

“The whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting,” he told reporters Wednesday, responding to a question about what Senate Republicans would do if Democrats tried to obtain the president’s tax returns. “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.”

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

McConnell said he was far from giving the Democrats tips on strategy, but was merely making a “historical observation” that the GOP’s investigations of Clinton “improved the president’s approval rating and tanked ours.”

Tuesday’s midterm election saw Democrats picking up more than two dozen seats in the House, more than the 23 needed to take the majority.

McConnell’s comments come as Democrats plan to use their new powers to investigate the president and his administration.

Democrats have already vowed to launch investigations into various aspects of Trump’s life, including his tax returns and his businesses.


A probe into possible collusion with Russians during the 2016 election is already underway but has turned up nothing linking Trump or any other American to Russian efforts to influence the vote that year. Instead, evidence has emerged of a widescale effort by the U.S. government to prevent Trump from winning.

The Ways and Means Committee, to be headed by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), is one of several House panels that could seek to obtain Trump’s tax returns.  Neal has said he wants to formally request the documents.

A Democratic aide to the committee told NBC that other committees could also be brought to bear—namely the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation—and request the tax returns under the tax code.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who will become the head of the Oversight Committee, is also expected to probe Trump’s businesses for possible ethics issues.

But while Democrats have expressed enthusiasm to begin investigating Trump, execution may be more muted if the tactic is seen to backfire.

“I don’t know that there will be much of an appetite” for members of Congress to spend their time “investigating, instigating, trying to impeach and subpoena people,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters late Tuesday night.

Points of Convergence

McConnell suggested that what drove a Democratic resurgence in the House was not so much voter desire for a check on the GOP, but rather because people want both parties to overcome differences and work together on important issues.

“I think the message is, ‘Figure out what you can do together, and do it,'” McConnell said.

He pointed to reducing the cost of prescription drugs and improving the nation’s infrastructure as potential areas of collaboration with a Democrat-led House, according to USA Today.

McConnell reiterated that placing conservative judges on the federal bench would continue to be a top priority.

“We intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can,” he said, “for as long as we’re in a position to do it.”