The GOP scandalmongers line up in front of the cameras
As you prepare for the impending collective GOP pearl clutch about the sanctity of classified information, remember this about the man leading the charge, Jason Chaffetz:
Chaffetz has firsthand experience in compromising sensitive materials. In July 2011, the Department of Homeland Security complained to him that the House transportation committee, which he chaired at the time, had illegally disclosed sensitive security information to the press.
Here's Chaffetz's latest:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is hauling FBI director James Comey to Capitol Hill on Thursday to explain why he didn’t recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as secretary of state.
“The FBI’s recommendation is surprising and confusing,” Chaffetz, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday. “The fact pattern presented by Director Comey makes clear Secretary Clinton violated the law. Individuals who intentionally skirt the law must be held accountable.”
The Utah lawmaker argued that while the yearlong FBI probe may be over, he’s ready to lead a new investigation into that investigation. “Congress and the American people have a right to understand the depth and breadth of the FBI’s investigation,” he said.
But it was just last month ― before the FBI reached conclusions that Republicans don’t like ― that Chaffetz was raving about Comey being the most competent, reliable person to lead the Clinton probe.
“I do think that in all of government, he is a man of integrity and honesty,” he said of Comey during a June 6 appearance on Fox News’ “Outnumbered.”
“His finger is on the pulse of this,” Chaffetz continued. “Nothing happens without him, and I think he is going to be the definitive person to make a determination or a recommendation.”
Asked if he thought Republicans would accept an FBI recommendation not to indict Clinton, he replied, “Oh, probably. Because we do believe in James Comey.”
I wrote about Chaffetz last fall for Salon. Here's an excerpt:
Chaffetz is a well-known figure on Capitol Hill but the average member of the public, if they know him at all, probably remembers him mainly as the guy who sleeps on a cot in his office rather than spring for a room somewhere. But he’s been marked for stardom since he was a college football star: In the words of Dave Weigel in this 2010 article, “when [Chaffetz] started to make it in politics, his teammates would recall how, after successful kicks, he would remove his helmet to reveal a perfect head of hair for the TV cameras.”
The son of a man once married to Kitty Dukakis, wife of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael, Chaffetz started off as a Jewish Democrat, then converted to Mormonism during his last year of college in Utah — and Republicanism when former President Ronald Reagan was hired as a motivational speaker for Nu Skin, the “multi-level marketing” company (think Amway) which employed Chaffetz for a decade before he entered politics. He worked as chief of staff for the famously moderate Gov. Jon Huntsman and then beat the very conservative Representative Chris Cannon by running against him from the right in the 2010 Tea Party electoral bloodbath. On Election Night, Cannon said, “the extremists who don’t want to win elections have taken over the party. We don’t want that to happen in Utah. Politics is way too important to leave to the boors.”
Chaffetz’s former boss Huntsman had this to say about his former chief of staff:
And despite his politically eclectic past, Chaffetz has stuck to his arch-conservative guns during the five years he’s been in Congress. He wants to slash Social Security, ban gay marriage and look into impeaching President Obama. Still, he sees himself as a sort of mediator between the hard-core Tea Party insurrectionists and everyone else — perhaps because he’s been everything from a liberal Democrat to a moderate Republican to a hard-right zealot, depending on where the opportunities lie at any given moment.
He is good communicator, except for the fact that he seems to have a tiny problem with the truth, which he perfectly illustrated in the Planned Parenthood hearing, when he offered up a chart so misleading that it caused Politifact to call it not only misleading, but, quoting one expert, “ethically wrong.” And while he may have a point that Kevin McCarthy screwed the pooch on Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee, his own history of being loose-lipped and excitable puts McCarthy’s little faux pas to shame.
As The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported on one of the earlier Benghazi investigations led by congressman Darrell Issa:
Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first to unmask the spooks. “Point of order! Point of order!” he called out as a State Department security official, seated in front of an aerial photo of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, described the chaotic night of the attack.
“We’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.”
A State Department official assured him that the material was “entirely unclassified” and that the photo was from a commercial satellite. “I totally object to the use of that photo,” Chaffetz continued. He went on to say that “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”
Now that Chaffetz had alerted potential bad guys that something valuable was in the photo, the chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), attempted to lock the barn door through which the horse had just bolted. “I would direct that that chart be taken down,” he said, although it already had been on C-SPAN. “In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.”
He's already in position.
If any members of Congress are thinking that Jason Chaffetz will be a more mature and professional leader than Kevin McCarthy, they might want to think again...Regardless of where he ends up in this Speaker’s race, it’s not going to be the last time we hear from him. As long as there are cameras on Capitol Hill, you can be sure he’ll be nearby rapidly assessing what posture to assume to take advantage of the moment.
Just something to keep in mind as you assess the legitimacy of the coming congressional inquiry into the email flap.
Update: And then there's this:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) once claimed that he “never voted for a [government] shutdown and never will.” But Issa is so angry the FBI recommended Hillary Clinton not be indicted for using a private server for her email that he suggested on Wednesday that he is rethinking his promise. He proposed that now might be a good time for the Republican leadership to shut down the federal government, in protest of what he called “an imperial president” who will not “enforce criminal charges against a criminal.”
In an interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily, Issa blasted FBI Director James Comey’s decision as “simply choosing to ignore a law.”
“We should be willing to shut down the government if the president won’t limit his power,” he said, noting that his party had repeatedly been “willing to shut down the government over ending Obamacare and these other things.” Those things, according to Issa, are “small points compared to the actual balance of our republic.”
Issa said the leadership would agree to a shutdown only if there was a clear example, like this, where “we cannot enforce criminal charges against a criminal… because the people responsible are simply choosing to ignore a law.”
While he said it is “not about Hillary Clinton,” he suggested that because “we can’t get to the courts,” in this case and others, “only have one piece of power, and that’s an imperial president.” He suggested that Congress should expand the power of independent counsels because, “otherwise Lois Lerner gets a free pass, Eric Holder gets a free pass, and yes, Hillary Clinton gets a free pass.”
In October 2012, Issa put several people’s lives in danger when he released State Department documents that compromised the identities of Libyans working with the U.S. government.
A few months before that, Issa published information from a sealed wiretap warrant application in the Congressional Record. That information isn’t supposed to be made public without a court’s permission, and people who violate that rule can be held in contempt.
I wonder if he's voting for Donald Trump?