House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz once noted that “without transparency, an unchecked executive operating in the dark develops with no accountability to the people who fund it.”
In a newly published Atlantic interview with McKay Coppins, Chaffetz indicated that that may change — some day. “Somebody’ll do something stupid at some point, and we’ll be all over it,” he said.
But in the meantime, here are five of the things he has made clear he does not think are worthy of his time:
1. The Trump family’s apparent kleptocracy
Chaffetz told Coppins that he is unconcerned with issues like Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway using her position to urge people to buy Trump’s daughter’s line of jewelry or questions about his son-in-law’s investments.
“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough,” he explained. “These other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money is a bit of a sideshow.”
2. Disgraced former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
General Michael Flynn was a top campaign adviser, a prominent surrogate, and Trump’s National Security Adviser — until he resigned just days into the new administration over false statements he made to the Vice President about his communications with the Russian government. Though Trump supposedly asked him to resign, the president also denounced the “very unfair” treatment Flynn received.
Chaffetz announced weeks after Flynn’s sudden departure that he would not investigate, claiming that it was “taking care of itself.” Subsequent to Chaffetz’s decision not to investigate him, it has come out that Flynn was working as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey and that he is seeking criminal immunity in exchange for testimony about his experiences.
3. Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims
Unhappy with reminders that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million in the 2016 election, Trump repeatedly claimed — without any evidence at all — that 3 to 5 million illegal ballots were cast, all apparently for his opponent. He even delegated to Vice President Pence a task force on voter fraud.
With the nation’s electoral integrity called into question — and the president’s credibility called into question by neutral fact-checkers — Chaffetz again punted. “We can’t just investigate everything that’s ever thrown out there by the Democrats, by the Republicans. We have to pick and choose,” he told CNN.
4. Trump’s conflicts of interest surrounding his hotels and the emoluments clause
Chaffetz told Coppins that this didn’t matter, because Trump is already very rich and thus could not not possibly be trying to enrich himself through his position.
“I think the people who voted for Donald Trump went into it with eyes wide open. Everybody knew he was rich, everybody knew he had lots of different entanglements,” he observed.
Chaffetz told CNN last month that he believes the president “is exempt from these conflicts of interest.” Asked specifically about the emoluments clause, he said he would not go on a “fishing expedition that the Democrats want us to go into.”
5. Trump’s elusive tax returns
Though financial experts have raised questions about the accuracy of Trump’s claims in his financial disclosures — and Chaffetz himself called for Trump to voluntarily release his tax returns — Chaffetz has bucked calls to use his subpoena power to get them.
“I think it would be an abuse of my power that has been vested in me,” Chaffetz said. “I don’t know what else it would illuminate. I mean, is it a surprise that Donald Trump is rich? Is it a surprise that Donald Trump has lots of businesses?”
Last June, Chaffetz told constituents that even though he was voting for Trump for president, that would not stop him from fiercely doing his job holding the executive branch accountable.
“I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store,” the Utah Republican vowed. “Let me loose. We’re going to have some very interesting hearings, and more bipartisan support than ever if that happens.”
This echoed a pledge he’d made in 2015, when he acknowledged that his committee had been highly critical of the Obama White House, but said, “I’d like to think we’d be equally as critical of a Republican administration, which I hope we have a chance to demonstrate next year. And a claim in 2014 that he be equally tenacious if Mitt Romney was the president. “It’s the check and balance of government. It’s the core function of our Constitution.”
Instead, Chaffetz has thus far spent the Trump Months continuing his investigation of Hillary Clinton (who has not been a government official since early 2013) and going after executive staffers who leaked information that made the Trump administration look bad. In late January, a list of upcoming investigations released by his Oversight committee included zero looking into the Trump administration.