The chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has refused all calls to hold a hearing on or investigate President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. Instead, Chaffetz is using his oversight power to continue pursuing Hillary Clinton’s emails.
On Thursday, Chaffetz sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to bring criminal charges against Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist at the State Department who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Pagliano has already received an immunity deal from the Department of Justice in exchange for his detailed testimony on Clinton’s email server. But now, Chaffetz is asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Pagliano for refusing to appear before the committee during its hearings over Clinton’s emails.
“In light of Pagliano’s contumacious conduct in refusing to testify, the Department should bring the matter before a grand jury for its action or file information charging Pagliano,” Chaffetz wrote to Sessions on Thursday. “If left unaddressed, Pagliano’s conduct in ignoring a lawful congressional subpoena could gravely impair Congress’s ability to exercise its core constitutional authorities of oversight and legislation.”
Pagiano refused two subpoena requests to testify before the House Oversight Committee about Clinton’s emails in 2016. His lawyers at the time cited Pagliano’s previous testimony during the Benghazi hearings, when he pled the fifth. The GOP-led Committee then voted to hold Pagliano in contempt, and Chaffetz vowed that he wouldn’t let the matter go.
“If anybody is under any illusion that I’m going to let go of this and just let it sail off into the sunset, they are very ill-advised,” he said regarding Pagliano.
Chaffetz is staying true to his word — and pursuing Pagliano even while ignoring all calls to investigate Trump’s continued ties to his businesses and the constitutional crisis they pose.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), called Chaffetz’ move a waste of time and money.
“Apparently, Chairman Chaffetz and President Trump are the only two people in Washington today who think we should still be investigating Secretary Clinton,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Oversight Committee can’t afford to be distracted by political vendettas against Hillary Clinton while our constituents are begging us to conduct responsible oversight of President Trump.”
When it appeared that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, Chaffetz told reporters that he had “two years’ worth of material already lined up” for investigations against Clinton “even before we get to Day One.”
But with Trump in the White House, Chaffetz has been extremely reluctant to initiate investigations against the president.
At recent a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, Chaffetz agreed to not even bring up the subject of oversight with the president, he told Politico this month. And at a town hall in Utah on February 9th, he told an auditorium full of constituents that the president is exempt from conflicts of interest — which is legally true — and that he won’t investigate questions about whether Trump might be personally benefiting from the presidency until he sees clear evidence of abuse.
Trump has refused to follow the Office of Government Ethics’ advice to divest from his business holdings. Prominent ethics lawyers say that Trump’s continued ownership of his businesses violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which is grounds for impeachment.