US Democratic House victory could echo from Moscow to Riyadh
NEW DELHI (AP) — The Democratic victory in the U.S. House of Representatives could echo from Moscow to Beijing to Riyadh, with empowered Democrats now able to launch new investigations into President Donald Trump's international business empire and his political dealings with the rest of the world.
Overturning control of the House in Tuesday's midterm elections has given the Democrats a powerful weapon to wield against Trump: the subpoena. The Democratic leaders of many House committees will have subpoena powers enabling them to obtain documents, emails and testimony.
The White House would likely fight many such requests in court, but the subpoenas' reach could extend far beyond Washington.
That means Democrats could look into such issues as the 18 trademarks that China has granted in recent months to companies linked to Trump and his daughter Ivanka and whether they reflect conflicts of interest. China says it handles all trademark applications equally, but House committees could probe whether Beijing can exploit the Trump family's substantial intellectual property holdings in China for political or diplomatic advantage.
On Wednesday, China said it didn't want to comment directly on the election results.
"It's their domestic affair. I don't want to comment on that, otherwise I will run the risk of being accused of interfering in their midterm election," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
"Regardless of the result ... we believe the two governments and the two peoples all want to maintain the sound and steady development of bilateral relations because we believe it is in the best interests of the international community," Hua said.
For Moscow, the Democratic victory means a probable reopening of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Republican-led Intelligence Committee closed its probe into Russian meddling, saying it had found no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Democrats, though, have long said the Republicans ignored a string of key facts and witnesses.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies any involvement in Trump's election victory, but he may quietly favour renewed investigations, seeing them as a way to sow chaos and division in America's bitterly divided political arena. What he would not favour, though, would be investigations or sanctions that damage the well-connected Russian oligarchs believed to have helped fund the meddling efforts.
After the election results, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament said the Democratic win in the House would raise the pressure on Trump.
Konstantin Kosachev said in televised comments that Trump will face "unpleasant challenges — emotional at a minimum and political at a maximum."
He said Trump would likely face strong Democratic resistance to any of his reforms, but added that the Republicans' continued control of the Senate saved Trump from a "real catastrophe with a looming threat of impeachment."
Then there's Saudi Arabia, and the relationship between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The ties between the two men, who are said to communicate frequently, could come under increased scrutiny by Democrats.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long been key allies, and Trump made the country his first stop abroad as president.
But the crown prince has lost supporters in Congress since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of Prince Mohammed, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Prince Mohammed is widely suspected of at least having knowledge of the killing, which was allegedly carried out by agents close to him.
The fallout for Saudi Arabia could be immense, with Democrats possibly trying to block major arms sales to Saudi Arabia and curtail U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, which the prince launched as defence minister in 2015. The U.S. assists the Saudi-led coalition with in-air refuelling and intelligence on targets, and supplies the kingdom with fighter jets and bombs used in the war. The conflict has become widely unpopular with some members of Congress and has created the world's largest humanitarian catastrophe, according to aid agencies.
But more investigations, Republicans note, could also blow back against the Democrats. Many Trump supporters already believe investigations into him have gone too far, and a string of new subpoenas could end up alienating voters.
That's what happened in the 1998 midterms, when Republican impeachment proceedings against then President Bill Clinton ended up energising the Democrats, allowing them to take additional House seats.
Plenty of people in Washington remember the lessons of 1998.
"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 counsellor Kellyanne Conway told reporters late Tuesday night.