On his way out, Goodlatte chooses “the low road”

As Congressman Goodlatte heads for retirement next month, veteran journalist Albert R. Hunt takes an unsparing look at his actions (and those of his fellow Republican Trey Gowdy) during his final term in Congress. It’s a good summation of what I’ve been posting at Goodlatte Watch over the past two years.

Retiring congressmen can feel liberated, no longer pressured by their peers or politics back home. They can be candid, and depart on a high road.

Unfortunately two of the most high-profile House Republican retirees, Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte and Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy, have chosen the low road. With their party about to lose power in the House, they are making last-gasp inquisitions, subpoenaing former FBI Director James Comey and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch for a closed-door session this week.

The purpose yet again is to try to find dirt on Hillary Clinton and advance the nutty case that Donald Trump might have been framed by the FBI, that bastion of left-wingers.

Although he initially filed suit to prevent a closed door hearing, Comey over the weekend agreed to testify in a private session later this week, with the understanding a transcript would be released within 24 hours and he would be free to talk about the session. Those conditions seek to counter the Republicans’ well-honed practice of selectively leaking information about private sessions.

Other retiring Republican members of Congress are leaving Congress on a better note.

Senator Jeff Flake has been a portrait of candor and political integrity after bowing out of what probably was an unwinnable re-election race in Arizona. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, shocked at Trump’s indifference to the Saudi leadership-ordered murder of a Washington Post columnist, accused the White House of acting like a “public relations firm” for the Saudi crown prince. Seven-term Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent, who resigned from Congress last spring, has talked openly about the dysfunction of the House Republican caucus.

In contrast, Goodlatte from Virginia and South Carolina’s Gowdy are only interested in scoring some cheap political points on the way out.

Four decades ago, Goodlatte started as a staffer to Republican Representative Caldwell Butler, a thoughtful and principled conservative from  Virginia. Butler was one of seven Judiciary Committee Republicans who voted to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974.

To paraphrase an old political saying, I covered Caldwell Butler, I interviewed Caldwell Butler, and Bob Goodlatte is no Caldwell Butler.

Goodlatte has occasionally crafted bipartisan accords, usually on rather minor matters. But in the past two years his focus has been to divert attention from Donald Trump’s transgressions by recycling Clinton inquiries.

“If you just watch this committee, you’d think Hillary Clinton won the last election,” says California’s Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “The Comey subpoena is just another of these stunts.”

Goodlatte began this Congress trying to gut the ethics rules. A column in his hometown Roanoke paper asked last week if “Goodlatte’s 13th (and last) term is his worse one yet,” and answered by noting he started “by trying to hamstring a congressional watchdog” and is departing “by doing the bidding of the Trump White House.” Goodlatte’s son, a former Facebook designer and now a San Francisco investor, expressed outrage at his father’s behavior.
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There may be one good outcome from the travesties of Goodlatte and Gowdy. Maybe next year new Democratic committee chairs like Jerrold Nadler and Maxine Waters will realize how these kind of performances not only tarred the institution, but also their own party.

Goodlatte’s softer side

It turns out that for all of Congressman Goodlatte’s tough words and actions when it comes to alleged misdeeds of the Obama administration, he has a generous and forgiving side too– at least when it comes to the daughter of a Republican president.

Politico reports:

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said on Monday that it was “awfully tough” for government officials such as Ivanka Trump to comply with agency standards for secure communications when sending emails.

“When things like this come up, it’s important people understand, they need to make sure they’re doing what they can,” Goodlatte said during an interview on CNN.

“And it’s awfully tough, as everyone knows, when you’re sending emails about a lot of different things to make sure that you’re doing it according to the rules in the White House or wherever you’re doing it,” he added.

The Washington Post reported last week that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to send hundreds of emails about government business.

Goodlatte goes down swinging for Trump

After ignoring multiple instances of wrongdoing by the Trump administration over the past two years, Congressman Goodlatte is wasting his final weeks in Congress with yet another futile effort to prove anti-Trump bias by Obama administration Justice Department officials during the 2016 election campaign.

Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee until he leaves Congress on January 3, has issued subpoenas for former FBI director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to testify in private depositions.

Soon after the subpoena was issued, Comey reiterated his call for a public hearing.

“Happy Thanksgiving. Got a subpoena from House Republicans,” Comey tweeted. “I’m still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions. But I will resist a ‘closed door’ thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion. Let’s have a hearing and invite everyone to see.”

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee and its likely incoming chairman, responded:

“These subpoenas are coming out of the blue, with very little time left on the calendar, and after the American people have resoundingly rejected the GOP’s approach to oversight — if, indeed, ‘oversight’ is the word we should use for running interference for President Trump.”

Goodlatte ignored Steve King’s racism last year. Will he speak out now?

Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has had enough of his fellow Republican, the white nationalist Congressman Steve King of Iowa.

Congressman Stivers, a principled Republican, stands in contrast to Congressman Goodlatte, who ignored evidence of King’s racial bigotry in January 2017 and appointed him as chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, declaring: “His expertise on many of the issues facing our nation and the committee make him well-suited to serve as chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee. I look forward to working with him as we seek to safeguard Americans’ liberties and promote an efficient and just legal system.”

Mourning and praying is not enough, Congressman

After the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Congressman Goodlatte posted the following tweet:

And that, apparently, is that. What’s infuriating is that Goodlatte– as chair of the House Judiciary Committee– is in a unique position to do something more.

The Hill reports:

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling for an emergency hearing focused on the “unprecedented” white supremacist-inspired violence in the U.S.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) sent a letter Monday to Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asking him to hold a hearing to examine recent hate-inspired violence, saying it is the panel’s duty to look into such matters.

The Democratic lawmakers pointed to three recent incidents from last week: 11 people killed by a gunman in a synagogue in Pittsburgh; more than a dozen explosive devices sent to prominent Democratic political figures; and the deaths of two African-Americans in Kentucky who were shot and killed by a gunman who allegedly tried to carry out a larger-scale attack at a predominately black church.

“In the past week, our nation has borne witness to three acts of terror,” the lawmakers wrote to Goodlatte. “This groundswell of violence includes both the largest attempted mass assassination of prominent political figures in American history and the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history. Each of these acts was carried out by an individual understood to espouse white supremacist views.”

“Whether it manifests itself as racism or anti-Semitism or xenophobia, white supremacy is white supremacy,” they added. “In its modern form, it motivates a fluid and particularly virulent form of domestic terrorism. It must be stopped.”

The lawmakers also chided Goodlatte for failing to hold a hearing on the matter sooner, stating that they requested a hearing on white-supremacist violence after the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. last year.

There is a “cost to this inaction,” they wrote, pointing to a rise in incidents of antisemitism in the U.S.
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A Republican House Judiciary Committee aide told The Hill that “there are no hearings planned at this time.” The aide also noted that the House passed a resolution this year condemning hate crimes.

(You can read the Democrats’ entire letter here.)

Toothless resolutions are nice. But it seems a serious investigation of the far right’s role in inspiring domestic terrorism is not exactly a priority for many Republicans. So there will be no hearings. And Bob Goodlatte will finish out his 26 years in Congress by once again putting party ahead of country.

Stingy Bob Goodlatte

Even though he is not running for reelection, and is sitting on a huge pile of campaign cash, Congressman Goodlatte has been rather tight-fisted when it comes to helping his fellow Republicans in the 2018 election.

Politico reports:

House GOP leaders, fearful of the staggering amount of cash fueling Democratic candidates this cycle, are leaning on safe and retiring members to pony up to save the House.

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The drive, according to four senior Republican lawmakers and aides, is focused on members with easy reelection campaigns or who are retiring from Congress next year — people sitting on piles of cash that could be used to save vulnerable incumbents. Leaders are targeting some powerful outgoing chairmen, typically the most prolific fundraisers, who haven’t met their annual required “dues” to the [National Republican Congressional Committee], according to multiple sources.

Those in the doghouse include:

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  • Retiring Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who has $637,000 in his campaign account, has transferred $25,000 from that account and $30,000 from his leadership PAC, much less than what’s expected of chairmen. Last cycle he transferred more than $300,000 from both accounts.

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“Our colleagues need money,” said one source… “We’re getting outraised by Democrats and we have members sitting on money.”

 

Goodlatte: “The Trump Administration has no excuse for not complying…”

As his final term in Congress winds down, Congressman Goodlatte may have developed something like a backbone when it comes to standing up to President Trump.

Very late, but better late than never.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today called on the Trump Administration to consult Congress immediately regarding the refugee ceiling for the coming year as required by law. Earlier this week, Department of State Secretary Mike Pompeo announced the fiscal year 2019 refugee ceiling without having first consulted with Congress.

Congressman Goodlatte:
“The law is clear: the Administration must consult with Congress prior to the President’s determination of the annual refugee ceiling. But this did not happen this year, and the Trump Administration has no excuse for not complying with their obligation under the law. There is a real question as to whether the President can even set a number of refugees that carries the weight of law unless it is done after an appropriate consultation with Congress. Leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee have worked in good faith for weeks to schedule a consultation, and I call on the Trump Administration to provide the Committees with a consultation immediately.

“The Administration’s lack of consultation underscores once again why this process is fundamentally flawed and why the refugee program is in need of reform. Congress, not the President, should set the annual refugee ceiling. The refugee program is currently the only immigration benefit program with an annual limit that is not determined by Congress. Immigration and Border Security Chairman Raul Labrador and I have introduced the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, which has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee. This bill, among many other provisions, gives Congress the authority to set the refugee ceiling. The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act maintains our nation’s generosity toward those in need and prevents bad actors from gaming the system.”