Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, could be facing an ethics investigation if Cleta Mitchell has her way.
Mitchell — a partner at Foley & Lardner and the legal counsel for True the Vote in its case against the IRS for its targeting of conservative groups — is pursuing Cummings over his conduct in the wider investigation.
“[Cummings] announced within 30 days after the IRS scandal that “Whoops, all this investigation is over, and we don’t need to be doing anything more on that,’ and he has done everything he can do to thwart and obstruct this investigation,” Mitchell said. “And has just been adamant that the investigation needs to end, that this is just a witch hunt, that there’s nothing there, that nobody did anything wrong.”
Mitchell believes that Cummings’s actions, including what he described as “his investigation of True the Vote” is outside of his jurisdiction and that it is a gross abuse of power to investigate private citizens.
“In the fall of 2012, True the Vote received a series of letters — eight, nine, 10 page letters from Elijah Cummings out of the blue, conducting what he claimed was ‘his investigation of True the Vote,'” she continued. “Now mind you, the jurisdiction of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is federal agencies. It is not private citizens’ groups in Houston, Texas.
“Congressman Cummings sent this series of letters demanding all this material and information from True the Vote. This went on for several months, and then he would get on national TV, MSNBC of course, and before the letters had been received by True the Vote he’d be waving these letters around and that he’s conducting an investigation, which of course he has no authority under the House rules to do.”
Mitchell believes that Cummings actions are nothing more than the latest step in a wider attempt by Democratic left to stifle discussion and opposition by the conservatives.
“On behalf of True the Vote, we filed a complaint against Rep. Cummings on February 6 with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Cummings or any member of his staff had played any role in getting any of the agencies that went after Catherine Engelbrecht and her family after she became involved with True the Vote. Two IRS audits about the business, her personal tax returns, two visits from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a surprise visit from OSHA, seven visits from the FBI. I mean, these are not coincidences. And so we wanted to know what role Rep. Cummings or any of his staff had played in any of that and why Rep. Cummings undertook to misrepresent that he was conducting an investigation of True the Vote, which we think was in violation of House rules.”
Cummings has vociferously defended his actions, often calling the investigation by Republican Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa as disingenuous and painting any criticism of his actions as unfairly partisan. This has included taking shots at Mitchell herself. However, the release of Lois Lerner’s emails have cast significant doubt on the honesty and transparency of Cummings’s intentions and motivations.
“[Cummings] of course denied that he said this is what we’re asking, he said that’s not true, that never happened, she’s absolutely incorrect (talking about me),” Mitchell said. “Well, guess what? Now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee obtains, for the first time in the last three or four weeks — receives some of Lois Lerner’s emails, and guess what? It shows that she is in fact directing responses from the IRS to Rep. Cummings office because they had advised Lois Lerner and IRS that… he is conducting an investigation of True the Vote.”
For Mitchell, the actions of Cummings speak volumes and despite his protestations that the entire investigation is a partisan inspired witch hunt, for Mitchell the facts are beginning to prove a very different narrative.
“Interestingly, the questions in some of these letters from Rep. Cummings to True the Vote are almost identical to the questions the IRS had sent to True the Vote six to eight months earlier. Those are not documents that are supposed to have been shared outside the IRS. We want to know, and we have asked OCE who supplemented our complaint, and we have asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to look at what were the documents, what were the emails received by Rep. Cummings and his staff. We want to know the rest of the story. We want to know what Cummings did and his staff because they have now. We say, well, maybe that’s why he wanted to shut down the investigation.”
The continuing emergence of crucial and highly controversial evidence is reason enough for Mitchell to pursue the truth.
“[Cummings] didn’t want any of this to ever become known,” she said. “And if Congressman Issa had done what Cummings had suggested last summer, we never would have known about this.”
Catch the full interview with Cleta Mitchell on The Daily Caller on Monday.