Much Ado About Everything No 26: Justice?

The Democratic Party's investigations into Donald Trump begin in earnest today, led by the House Justice Committee.

Initially, I thought it might be the House Intelligence Committee which took the lead on investigating alleged malfeasance by Donald Trump; but Adam Schiff, its chair, has rightly sat back awaiting the outcome of the Mueller investigation (reported by the media to be due to wrap up very soon — albeit not for the first time — which could mean that we are in for a further wave of indictments shortly). Then, of course, we had the Oversight Committee take a strong lead last week with Mr Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen.

However, it looks like the carefully coordinated Democratic Party strategy may be to give the lead to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jerrold Nadler (pictured), which we now know will swing into action today, guns blazing, subpoena-ing documents from over 60 Trump associates including Donald Trump Jnr and Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg (who was fingered by Mr Cohen at the Oversight Committee).

Does this mean that the Democratic Party is intent on impeachment? Despite the undoubted enthusiasm for such among some of the party's younger activists the answer is 'no, at least not yet'. As Mr Nadler said in his interview with ABC News yesterday when he announced his committee's intentions: "Impeachment is a long way down the road, we don't have the facts yet, but we're going to initiate proper investigations." And if, as some senior Democrats have suggested, it is not just a question of evidence but also of persuading the American public at large that Mr Trump should be impeached (ie at least as much a political decision as a legal one), the hurdle is even higher.

But already the mounting pressure from Democrats and, in all likelihood, Robert Mueller certainly seems to be getting at Mr Trump if his speech at the CPAC convention on Saturday is anything to go by. To judge from the past two years, we should expect a consequent major wave of attention distraction moves from him as well as more of the sort of vitriol he was pouring out last night. Some of this could be 'good news' from the perspective of investors — notably (and as I said about Mr Cohen's testimony) I think it probably increases the probability of him reaching an agreement with President Xi Jinping which at least averts the immediate prospect of a ratcheting upwards of the China/US trade war. On the other hand, it likely also increases the risk of Mr Trump slapping tariffs on auto imports from the EU. But exactly what he will do is where we get into unpredictable (and potentially volatility generating) territory with Mr Trump.

Alastair Newton