House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) isn’t ready to abandon the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, which was completed under the Obama administration Department of Justice’s purview.
In contrast with Republicans in the Senate, Goodlatte has steadfastly ignored the committee’s obligation to provide oversight to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, and his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This has left House Democrats with the strange feeling of wishing Senate Judicial chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had influence in the House.
“We’ve got to give Grassley and the Senate credit,” Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a House Judiciary Committee Democrat, said at a hearing last week. “They are not over there denying the reality of what is going on.”
Goodlatte doesn’t see the point of joining in an investigation that is already underway and has made it his goal to make sure Clinton’s nefarious activity isn’t forgotten amidst all the talk about Trump. Last week, House Judicial Democrats tried to pass a resolution demanding more information on Sessions’ role in the Comey firing but were refuted by Goodlatte, who, in turn, crafted the resolution into a request for new probes on Clinton.
Goodlatte has “done zero – absolutely zero — as chairman to look into these things,” Jerrold Nadler of New York, a Democrat on the House Judiciary panel, said in an interview. “Certainly, Senator Grassley doesn’t agree with that thinking.”
Goodlatte denied Bloomberg’s request for an interview but made remarks last week on House Judicial Committee participation in the Russia probe.
“Until Mr. Mueller’s investigation is complete, it is redundant for the House of Representatives to engage in fact-gathering on many of the same issues he is investigating,” Goodlatte said at a hearing last week.
Further comments betray his true status as a Trump teamer. He said there is no reason for his panel to use “taxpayer dollars to investigate the Trump campaign’s connections — or lack thereof — to the Russian government.”
Conversely, the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees seem to have dedicated all of their time to the Russia probe, holding numerous testimonies, including the upcoming testimony of Donald Trump Jr. regarding a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian nationals.
The contending intentions of the two Republican controlled bodies speaks to the growing rift within the Party, which Bloomberg reporter Billy House characterizes as being “torn between protecting a Republican administration from partisan attacks and conducting defensive oversight in case significant wrongdoing emerges.”
Along with Trump, Goodlatte has been firmly on the side of protecting the administration from partisan attacks, leading his committee to pen a letter to Sessions requesting the hiring of a second special counsel in light of “troubling, unanswered questions” about Clinton and the politicization of officials working for Mueller.
“Many congressional entities have been engaged in oversight of Russian influence on the election, but a comprehensive investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath must, similarly, be free of even the suggestion of political interference,” they wrote. Conversely, House Speaker Paul Ryan has spoken to the depoliticizing effect of such probes and has defended Mueller.
The result has been the creation of hybrid, bipartisan, shadow coalitions stemming across the two congressional bodies, with Trump-centric Republicans in the House siding with the president in his conflict with Attorney General Sessions and his delegitimization of the Russia probe, and Senate Republicans remaining loyal to Sessions and emphasizing the probe, while garnering the support of congressional Dems in both houses.
John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary committee, said of Trump’s attacks on Sessions: “Whatever we think about the political views of Attorney General Sessions, this conduct is not right. It is not normal. And it deserves the immediate attention of this committee.”
Senator Linsey Graham (R-S.C.) is working alongside Democratic leaders such as Sen. Corey Booker (R-N.J.) to craft legislation preventing Trump from firing Sessions or special counsel Mueller.
But Goodlatte does have the support of his fellow Republicans in the House, and, while he breathes, the possibility of a re-opening of the Clinton investigation persists.
“The Democrats make sure that just about all we talk about in Judiciary is Russia — even though they don’t even know how to find Russia on the map,” said Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona in an interview. “They just want to use it as a political bludgeon against Trump.”
Since her failed presidential campaign came to an end last November, Clinton has been keeping herself busy promoting t-shirts for Planned Parenthood.
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