House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) Chairman Jason Chaffetz is preparing to press President Donald Trump and top officials in his administration to turn over previously requested documents as early as April, he said during a talk at Judicial Watch Thursday.
“As we turn the corner into April, there will a little bit of an attitude adjustment on the oversight committee,” the Utah Republican said, describing his plan for letters and other requests to the Trump administration for documents. “I do plan on getting much more aggressive.”
The new attitude appears to stem from Chaffetz’ belief that “the House in particular has been a bunch of wimps” in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities. His remarks came during an address at the headquarters of the non-profit government watchdog Judicial Watch.
The HOGR gave the new administration the opportunity to release documents proactively, but Chaffetz said he’s “tired of waiting.” (RELATED: Trump Could Tear Down Obama’s FOIA Secrecy. Here’s Why He Probably Won’t.)
Among the issues the committee will investigate are those surrounding Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn, who resigned facing controversy over Russian connections.
“It doesn’t look good for Gen. Flynn at this point,” Chaffetz said, citing it as an issue the oversight committee will handle “in a bipartisan way.”
Many of the documents Chaffetz wants were requested during the Obama administration, but were never provided. The committee’s probes weren’t done with an eye on the 2016 campaign and didn’t end with the election of Trump, he said.
“We will continue the investigations we’ve started in the past,” Chaffetz said. “The documents, subpoenas and letters still have not been fulfilled. If it’s a request during the Obama administration, it’s still a request during the Trump administration.
“We’re still dealing with the same administration personnel by and large. They’ve given us the stiff arm in the past and they’re giving us the stiff arm now,” he said. “I hope they’re chalking this up to, ‘well, we haven’t put in our senior most management yet.’ But this can’t wait six months.”
“There have been a few requests from the Trump administration that have come in right on time,” Chaffetz said, citing the government contract regarding the Trump International Hotel as an example. He added that “not much time has gone by” for the committee to conduct oversight over Trump’s executive branch.
Chaffetz mentioned the investigation of allegations of improper links between the Trump administration and Russia, but said the House Intelligence Committee was much better suited to lead the probe. “I do have great faith in Chairman [Devin] Nunes,” he said.
The oversight chairman also discussed how Congress’ subpoena power is essentially toothless without help from the Department of Justice and the resulting inherent conflict of having the executive branch compel its own officials to comply.
Chaffetz twice subpoenaed a Hillary Clinton IT official, Bryan Pagliano, but he refused to show up to either hearing.
“Imagine if this happened in the courts,” Chaffetz said. “What would happen? He’d be in handcuffs. He’d be in jail.”
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