There are obviously a handful of ongoing controversies surrounding national officeholders and alleged mishandling of classified materials, but by any sensible measure, the controversy surrounding Donald Trump is qualitatively different.
After all, the former president, unlike President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, ignored requests to return the relevant documents. And failed to comply with a federal subpoena. And stands accused of obstructing the retrieval process. And reportedly proposed a possible trade in which he said he’d consider returning materials, but only if officials gave him something else in return. And launched a months-long crusade against federal law enforcement, literally equating the FBI with “the Gestapo.”
With this in mind, if the House Oversight Committee were going to take an interest in the larger issue, it stands to reason that Trump and his alleged criminal misconduct would be of interest. But it’s not: The Republican chairman of the panel, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky has not only defended the former president’s actions, he’s also dismissed the scandal’s importance.
Comer is, however, deeply interested in pursuing the Biden story, despite the fact that it appears far less serious. How does the GOP chairman explain the double standard? He’s still working on that.
Last night, the Republican sat down with CNN’s Pamela Brown and tried to flesh out his perspective. “What’s different with Joe Biden is we’re investigating the Biden family for influence peddling,” Comer said. When the host asked why he wasn’t asking similar questions about Trump — who not only took classified documents, but who’s also had extensive dealings with other countries — the Oversight Committee chair said he hasn’t seen any evidence of influence peddling surrounding the former president.
So, Brown asked the appropriate follow-up question: Does he have evidence of influence peddling surrounding Biden and classified documents? “We don’t know,” Comer said. “We want to look.”
It was like watching a snake eat its own tail.
This morning, the Kentucky Republican appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and elaborated on why he’s ignoring the Trump controversy. “Well, there’s a special counsel,” Comer explained. “There’s a special counsel and I am confident that that special counsel is looking into everything.”
As the clip from this morning shows, he seemed to think this was a good point.
It was not a good point. As the chairman of the House Oversight Committee really ought to know, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to scrutinize the Biden matter, too. If the existence of a special counsel investigating Trump leads Comer to believe he should focus his attention elsewhere, then the existence of a special counsel investigating the Biden story should lead him to the same conclusion.
But it’s not. That’s the point.
The GOP congressman added that he doesn’t know if there’s evidence connecting the Biden documents to unproven Republican theories about influence peddling. Of course, he also doesn’t know if there’s evidence connecting the Trump documents to possible influence peddling. Comer is, however, eager to pursue one of these as a legitimate line of inquiry — even as he struggles to justify his indifference toward the other, more serious controversy.