Chaffetz shocked hill-watchers when he first announced he would not seek re-election, only to follow that announcement with another shocker — the news he was considering leaving the Hill before the end of his current term.
The Utah Republican was then sidelined by emergency foot surgery.
Rumors ranged from a desire to run for Utah’s Governorship, to personal issues, and descended into wild speculation. After all, why would a well-liked up-and-comer walk away from it all?
Chaffetz repeatedly claimed his choice was personal, that he believed it in the best interest of his marriage and family, and that it was a decision he and his wife made together.
In a recent interview with Sharyl Attkisson, Chaffetz redoubled his claim that this his decision to quit Congress mid-session and walk away from his Chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee was one he and his wife made.
Chaffetz indicated he was disappointed with the Trump administration. He’d hoped a Republican administration would make completing the Oversight Committee’s ongoing investigations easier but found he was receiving the same pushback, red tape, and stonewalling he’d experienced from the Obama administration.
The outgoing Congressman noted a particular frustration with the Justice Department.
“The reality is, sadly, I don’t see much difference between the Trump administration and the Obama administration. I thought there would be this, these floodgates would open up with all the documents we wanted from the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Pentagon. In many ways, it’s almost worse because we’re getting nothing, and that’s terribly frustrating and with all due respect, the Attorney General has not changed at all. I find him to be worse than what I saw with Loretta Lynch in terms of releasing documents and making things available. I just, that’s my experience, and that’s not what I expected.”
“I mean, we have been in court trying to pry those documents out of the Department of Justice and still to this day, they will not give us those documents. And at the State Department, nothing. Stone cold silence.”
Chaffetz also expressed displeasure with President Trump’s inaction on removing or reprimanding IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen:
“Now look, you have more than 50 Republicans pleading with President Trump to release him, um, to let him go, fire him. Uh, or at least encourage him to retire. No, he’s still there. No changes. Nobody was fired. Nobody was prosecuted. Nobody was held accountable. We tried to issue subpoenas, we tried to hold people in contempt and the Obama Administration said, no, and the Trump Administration came in and did zero. Nothing. Nothing changed.”
A seemingly jaded and disheartened Chaffetz said he has little faith Washington will experience substantive change, even with Republican majorities. Attkisson asked, “Do Republican leaders have an appetite to do the kind of oversight that needs to be done?”:
“No, no. No, I mean the reality is, there aren’t very many people that want to play offense. There aren’t many people who say, look, we have a duty and an obligation to fulfill the oversight responsibility that was put in place at the very founding of our country.
Congress doesn’t stand up for itself. I think it’s, it’s really lost its way. They say, oh, we’ll use the power of the purse. That doesn’t work. First of all, they never do cut funding. Even getting people to come up and testify before Congress, the Obama Administration at the end of their term, they got so brazen they stopped sending people up. They just didn’t care. And, and there was no way to enforce that, and until that changes, uh the legislative branch is going to get weaker and weaker.”
Frustrated with the state of Beltway politics and the inability to complete the work he set out to do, Chaffetz said he simply preferred to spend time with his wife and kids.
“I’m looking at the next year and a half thinking, I’m going to spend 2 to 300 nights away from my wife where we, we’ve been married 26 years. I loved the work but I, I truly just honestly happen to love my, my wife and kids more.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was selected to replace Chaffetz as Chairman of the Oversight Committee.
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