Email #80, Subject: investigation priorities?

I read that you and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have written a letter to the Justice department requesting an investigation into the press leaks that lead to Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser. Since you chair the House Judiciary Committee and Mr. Chaffetz chairs House Oversight, your joint letter has considerable weight. While I applaud your focus on the executive branch, I am confused by your choice of issues.

Leaks to the press that involve potentially classified information are a legitimate concern, but in this case those leaks revealed information that the administration was keeping from the public – and apparently even from the Vice President. Without them, Mr. Flynn would still be in his former position, despite his illegal actions and his vulnerability to Russian blackmail.

Mr. Chaffetz also likened your requested investigation to the FBI’s investigation into Hilary Clinton’s use of a private email server. This is an unfortunate comparison. While that investigation yielded no findings of illegal actions, it did influence the Presidential election. As you know, FBI Director Comey’s letter to Congress announcing his reopening of the investigation days before the election may itself have been illegal and so more worthy of a Justice department investigation.

Also, as you know, the President has broken his promise to release his tax records and so reveal his conflicts of interests. While his refusal is legal, it falls far below the “highest standards” you have endorsed for elected officials. Would you and Mr. Chaffetz ask Rep. Kevin Brady, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, to reconsider requests to seek the President’s taxes in order to determine his business ties to specific companies and countries?

While your letter regarding press leaks is reasonable in itself, its role in the larger political context creates the impression of an aggressively partisan attitude.  You seem to be using your role as Judiciary chair unfairly and, ultimately, unwisely. Given the negative national attention you received for your failed Ethics Office amendment last month, I had hoped you would shift to more centrist priorities. Your recent attempts to block communication between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and others members of Congress is equally disturbing, as is your refusal to respond to requests to investigate the President’s conflicts of interests.

You had the reputation of a reasonable, principled Republican concerned with doing the right thing. The deep damage you have done to that reputation in just two months is startling. I hope you will also consider the damage you are doing to the norms of bipartisan government. We have a polarizingly antagonistic President who routinely misrepresents facts and bends and breaks rules to achieve his goals. Your constituents expect and need far better from you.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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