Goodlatte Watch ends, Cline Watch begins

Because today marks the retirement of Bob Goodlatte after 26 years in Congress, it also marks the retirement of Goodlatte Watch.

In the course of a little more than two years, there have been 185 posts at this website, more than 14,000 visitors and nearly 27,000 page views. The number of subscribers via email and WordPress totaled 190.

Goodlatte Watch will remain on-line as a reference, but will no longer be updated. Although almost all my posts were critical of Goodlatte, I tried to be as accurate as I possibly could. I hope you have found it informative and useful. 

Please visit my new website, Cline Watch, which will track Goodlatte’s successor as Virginia’s Sixth District representative in Congress.

Ending with a whimper

House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte and Oversight Committee chair Trey Gowdy have ended their year-long time- and money-wasting probe of alleged FBI and Justice Department bias against Donald Trump with a seven-page letter calling for still more investigation.

The House GOP leaned heavily on details in an inspector general report released earlier this year to make their arguments about bias having infected the FBI and DOJ’s proceedings. The inspector general’s report found that while certain individuals, such as former top FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok, displayed clear personal bias against Trump, there was no evidence that the conclusions of the investigations themselves were biased.
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But after dozens of mostly closed-door interviews and months of high-profile partisan clashes, the seven-page letter comes as a remarkably quiet ending — with lawmakers offering no discernibly new insights or recommendations for how the federal law enforcement agencies erred or might improve their work.

Democrats in Congress were not impressed.

Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, and Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the oversight panel, are expected to formally end the investigation when they take power in January. Nadler has called it “nonsense”.

California’s Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said on Friday evening that the Republican investigation was ending “not with a bang, but with a Friday, buried-in-the-holidays whimper, and one foot out the door”.

After Goodlatte’s and Gowdy’s prolonged and largely unsuccessful effort to divert attention from President Trump’s myriad misdeeds and possible criminal behavior, Nadler, Cummings and Schiff will be chairing their respective committees next year.

And Bob Goodlatte won’t be able to obstruct them.

Murkowski promises to help pass Savanna’s Act post-Goodlatte

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HuffPost reports:

For his final act in Congress, retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) single-handedly killed a bill that would have helped combat the horrific levels of violence directed at Native women.

For her final act in the Senate, Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D), who lost her re-election bid in November, unsuccessfully fought to push Goodlatte out of the way and let her bill, known as Savanna’s Act, become law.

With both of them gone in the new Congress that begins on Jan. 3, the question remains: Is Savanna’s Act gone too? It turns out Heitkamp’s real final act was locking in a Republican colleague to carry the torch for her.

“I’ve committed to Sen. Heitkamp that this priority that she has helped to advance, I am going to encourage every step of the way, aggressively and early,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters last week, according to an audio recording provided by Murkowski’s office on Wednesday.

In an act of pettiness, Goodlatte blocked Savanna’s Act from reaching the floor of the House of Representatives even after the Senate approved it unanimously.

Thanks to Murkowski, a decent Republican, the Act will have a second chance in the new Congress next year. And Goodlatte will be remembered for ending his 26-year career in Congress on a nasty and sour note.

A shameful end to Goodlatte’s career

It’s beginning to look almost certain that Congressman Goodlatte, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee in one of the final acts of his 26 years in Congress, will succeed in blocking Congressional approval of a bill to protect Native American women from violence.

The bill, known as Savanna’s Act, passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

The Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald reports:

The last word in the struggle over the bill was from U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s office late Wednesday when Goodlatte sent over changes he wanted in the bill.

The bill would improve tribal access to federal databases for tracking missing tribal persons, require the Department of Justice to consult with tribes while developing guidelines, mandate reporting statistics regarding missing and murdered Native Americans to Congress, and streamline coordination between tribes and law enforcement agencies with training and technical assistance in putting the guidelines in force.

Goodlatte said he essentially wanted to strike out the law enforcement guidelines. One provision he wanted removed would essentially strike out any accountability for law enforcement to implement guidelines in the bill. Another would take out the provision for preference for law enforcement grant applicants that have implemented the guidelines.

These were incentives for law enforcement on the federal, state, local and tribal level to put an extra effort into addressing the crisis, said Heiktamp’s office.

Without those provisions, her office said a key part of the bill would be gutted and was a nonstarter in any negotiations.

According to Heitkamp, 84 percent of Native American women experience violence in their lifetime, but she said few outside of Indian Country are aware of this epidemic. Native American women face a murder rate 10 times higher than the national average.

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If the bill isn’t approved this year, new legislation would need to be introduced and go through what could be a long legislative process again next year. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who heads the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said he would keep working on the bill and has strongly supported efforts to get it passed.

Congresswoman Norma Torres referred to Goodlatte on the floor of the House of Representatives: “One member of this body has decided to prevent us from passing Savanna’s Act. And the rest have capitulated. One member standing in the way of finally doing the right thing for Native women. American women. Women who are victims of crime. Shameful.”

Despite protests from hundreds of constituents and others, Goodlatte has not offered any public explanation for why he is blocking Savanna’s Act.

On Friday some of Goodlatte’s constituents rallied outside his office in Staunton to demand a response. But so far nothing.

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Shameful indeed, Congressman Goodlatte.

Goodlatte blocks law to protect Native American women

In his final days in Congress, Bob Goodlatte is– for whatever reason– blocking a law designed to protect Native American women from violence, especially on rural reservations.

Perhaps the congressman needs to hear from his constituents about this.

The West Fargo (North Dakota) Pioneer reports:

The bill named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a pregnant Fargo woman who was abducted and killed last year in a baby-snatching case, was passed by the U.S. Senate as a unanimous consent bill on Dec. 7.

The bill, introduced by [Senator Heidi] Heitkamp, would improve collection of data on tribal victims, improve tribal access to federal law enforcement databases and create guidelines for responding when someone is reported missing.

But word surfaced Friday, Dec. 14, that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia who is retiring, is blocking the measure.

Heitkamp said Goodlatte is simply playing “petty partisan games.”

“If Savanna’s Act doesn’t pass in the next few days, it would have to be reintroduced in the next Congress, and the process would start from square one,” Heitkamp said in a statement on Friday. “We are so close to passing this critical bill to help address the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women, and getting it signed into law.

“The actions of one Congressman shouldn’t stop us from improving tribal access to law enforcement databases and preventing the cycle of exploitation, abuse, and violence in Indian Country,” she said.

The House also has a consent calendar similar to the Senate where the bill could sail through. But according to Heitkamp’s office, a powerful committee chairman can exert influence over the House leadership, still under Republican control for another week, to prevent a vote. That apparently is what chairman Goodlatte has done.

“I’d like to see Congressman Goodlatte actually visit a reservation in North Dakota and explain to the families of victims why he is blocking this bill,” Heitkamp said. “Unlike Congressman Goodlatte, I am serious about saving lives and making sure Native American women are invisible no longer — and I’m determined to not let Savanna’s Act go down without a fight.”

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.