House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., steps back as other Republican members of the panel discuss the final report on Benghazi, June 28, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Gowdy: Oversight Committee to examine Rob Porter controversy

As the controversy over former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter has unfolded, the number of questions has grown. More than a few observers have noted of late that, under normal political circumstances, we’d see lawmakers asking these questions during congressional hearings.

But with a Republican president and Republican-led Congress, basic oversight has effectively collapsed since Donald Trump took office. Will the Porter scandal be the latest victim of partisan neglect?

Maybe not. Politico  reported this morning:

The House Oversight Committee is investigating the Trump administration’s employment of Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic abuse, committee chairman Trey Gowdy said Wednesday.

Gowdy was asked on CNN’s “New Day” if his committee would launch an investigation into Porter’s employment at the White House and at what point the administration was made aware of the allegations against him. “We did last night,” he responded.

In theory, for those seeking some kind of explanation for the White House’s ridiculous handling of this matter, Gowdy’s interest is an important step.

I have to wonder, though, what kind of inquiry he and his colleagues have in mind.

For example, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) last year agreed to examine the Russia scandal, which seemed like a positive development – right up until we learned that Nunes intended to use the investigation to create a smokescreen for the White House.

Will Gowdy – who’s retiring this year and faces far fewer partisan pressures – pursue a more responsible course? It’s certainly possible, and some of what the South Carolina Republican said this morning sounded encouraging.

He told CNN, for example, “I would want to know from Don McGahn and General Kelly and anyone else: What did you know, from whom did you hear it, to what extent did you hear it and then what actions, if any, did you take? The chronology is not favorable from the White House.”

But in the same interview, Gowdy also mentioned the FBI, who’s been the target of intense Republican opposition in recent months. “I’m going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer,” the Oversight Committee chairman added. “And if [FBI officials] don’t answer them, then they’re going to need to give me a really good reason.”

If Gowdy wants the FBI to shed light on the White House’s security clearances, great. If the examination becomes an excuse for a Republican-led committee to complain some more about federal law enforcement, that would be far less great.

For now, however, I’m going to hope for the best. Gowdy asked this morning how anyone facing “credible allegations of domestic abuse” could’ve had Rob Porter’s job. That’s as good a place as any to start.

Trey Gowdy and White House

Gowdy: Oversight Committee to examine Rob Porter controversy