Two incidents last week demonstrate that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, run by House Speaker Paul Ryan, is as dysfunctional and impotent a force to hold the Obama administration accountable for anything — including high crimes and misdemeanors — as it ever was under Ryan's predecessor John Boehner.
—Bryan Pagliano, the former State Department computer specialist tasked with setting up Hillary Clinton's server, was subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about the national security scandal that continues to haunt the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee. Pagliano refused to answer the subpoena. He just ignored it. That's a textbook example of contempt of Congress. How did the Republican House respond to this flagrant denigration and dismissal of the power of Congress? Did they order federal marshals to arrest Pagliano? Is he currently behind bars until he agrees to appear before the committee? No. Instead, Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and a guy doing the bidding of Ryan and the GOP establishment, huffed and puffed, saying Pagliano was "thumbing his nose at Congress," and promised there would be "consequences." A week later, there have been no discernible consequences, and insiders say they don't expect any.
—Also last week, Paul Ryan himself engineered an agreement by the Republican majority to avoid impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his clear, unambiguous direction of the agency's illegal political targeting and official abuse of tea-party groups and others viewed as adversarial to the Obama administration. This was the most heinous misuse of the IRS for political purposes ever admitted by the agency. Koskinen had previously obstructed any further investigation of the facts by House committees.
This behavior is nothing new for the House. It's the kind of behavior we've witnessed as a nation since Republicans won control of the House in 2010. It's the kind of conduct that led directly to Republican voters storming the barricades in 2016 for Donald Trump's nomination as their presidential candidate.
These two recent developments have provided Trump a golden opportunity to lead, to have an immediate impact on the way Republican officeholders conduct business in Washington, in short, to start governing right now.
One of Trump's bold campaign promises is to overhaul the tax code and, in the process, make certain the IRS never again acts outside the rule of law, as it did under both Obama and the Clinton administration.
So what did Trump have to say about the capitulation of the House Republican caucus on the impeachment of Koskinen?
Not even a tweet.
Not a single word.
Here was a chance for Trump to make a splash for his own campaign as well as shame House Republicans into action. But he didn't take it.
Likewise, in the matter of Hillary Clinton's email server tech refusing to appear before Congress in answer to a lawfully served subpoena followed by nothing but huffing and puffing by Paul Ryan's chain gang, Trump has been mute.
Here was an issue directly involving a scandal consuming his opponent for the White House. And, once again, not a word from Trump. Not even a tweet.
These represent two incredible opportunities for Trump to weigh in legitimately on the kind of Washington establishment business-as-usual that helped win him the nomination — an outsider who might just shake things up in the nation's capital.
I can tell you for a fact there are many Republicans in the House who were hoping Trump would sound off.
They were hoping Trump would call for the immediate impeachment of the IRS' Koskinen, believing it might make a difference and set a new tone even before the election.
They were hoping Trump would call for Hillary's tech guy to be arrested for contempt of Congress, to set an example for the future.
It's not too late to do it.
Is Team Trump paying attention?