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Key Republican wants to investigate Clinton, not Trump

A key Republican has no interest in conducting oversight of the man who'll become president next month. He wants to investigate Hillary Clinton, instead.
Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.
Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.
For much of the fall, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) made no secret of his plans for 2017: the conservative congressman was eager to put the White House under a microscope, investigating everything Republicans could think of. This, of course, came at a time when Chaffetz assumed, like nearly everyone else, that Donald Trump would lose and Hillary Clinton would be the next president.After Trump became president-elect, the Utah Republican found it difficult to change gears. On Nov. 9, literally the day after the election, Chaffetz said he intended to keep going after Clinton and her email server management anyway. Yesterday, as The Hill noted, he doubled down, saying he wants to keep investigating Clinton.

"We can't just simply let this go," Chaffetz told host Martha MacCallum on Fox News's "America's Newsroom" Wednesday."If the president or president-elect wants to pardon Secretary Hillary Clinton for the good of the nation, that is their option," Chaffetz added. "But I have a duty and an obligation to actually fix the problems that were made with Hillary Clinton."

This is bonkers for a variety of reasons, but let's focus on just two. The first is that Clinton, a private citizen who hasn't held public office in nearly five years, didn't actually commit any crimes. I realize that we're all supposed to pretend clumsy I.T. practices in 2012 represent the year's most critically important issue, and the political world's obsession with email server management helped put an unqualified television personality in the Oval Office, but the reality remains that there is nothing of interest to be learned from an ongoing congressional investigation.The second angle, which is arguably more important, is that while Chaffetz is eager to conduct oversight of a former official who left office years ago, the Republican congressman has no interest in conducting oversight of the man who'll actually become president next month.Congressional Democrats have pleaded with the Oversight Committee chairman to look into Trump's various conflict-of-interest controversies, but Chaffetz has ignored them. Asked to explain his position, the GOP lawmaker told the Huffington Post yesterday, "It's sort of ridiculous to go after him when his financial disclosure is already online."The response doesn't make much sense. The disclosure documents offer assessments of Trump's assets and net worth, but this information does little to address his many conflicts of interest.There is no great mystery to the politics surrounding this mess: when Chaffetz assumed there'd be a Democratic White House, he was desperate to do oversight. When he learned there'd be a Republican White House, he slammed on the brakes -- and came to the conclusion that the only person who really deserves more scrutiny isn't the president with a burgeoning and congressionally unexplored scandal, but rather, his defeated opponent.And it's not just Chaffetz. Politico reached out to a series of House and Senate Republicans this week, and found no real appetite for "aggressive oversight into Trump's financial situation." The article added, "[N]early every GOP leader approached for an interview on the topic hunkered down or tried to avoid comment."My personal favorite was this Huffington Post report on the argument from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

[L]ikely to the amazement of Democrats who have complained about endless probes into Hillary Clinton's behavior, McCarthy argued that it's time to back off on investigations."I think for too long, some of these rules have been used that way, and I think it's been a bad thing, and it's harmed the ability for people all to work together," McCarthy said.

It's the through-the-looking-glass moment: after eight years in which congressional Republicans screamed, "Bigger than Watergate!" in response to every meaningless Obama-related flap, and endless hearings into Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy has suddenly lost interest in congressional oversight of the executive branch,Obsessive investigations, the Republican leader has discovered, are "a bad thing."The shamelessness is breathtaking, even by 2016 standards.