Email #187: “a serious committee”?

Why is the Senate Judiciary Committee actively overseeing the Justice Department while the House Judiciary Committee is not?

According to committee member Senator Feinstein, she and Republican Senator Grassley, chair of the committee, are discussing whether to subpoena both former FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Sessions to testify. Their fellow committee member Senator Klobuchar said at a meeting last week:

“At some point, the leadership in both the majority and the minority have to say that this is, [we] must have some role in asserting the jurisdiction of this committee. Because we have these kinds of jurisdictional disputes sometimes but it seems to me that all, nearly like 90 percent of these issues, should be under our committee.”

Grassley agreed: “I think you’re finding a stone wall that opposes what you and I feel about this, and I resent it.”

To its credit, the House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign too. But it is unclear whether the scope of their investigation includes how the administration has dealt with the FBI’s investigation of the same matter, including the firing of Comey. Those concerns fall clearly under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. Your counterparts in the Senate recognize that fact and are frustrated and resentful that their oversight is being hampered.

“At some point,” said Senator Whitehouse, “the Judiciary Committee has to decide whether it’s going to continue to be a serious committee anymore.”

Is the House Judiciary a serious committee?

A month has passed since members of your committee asked you to take action:

“Because it falls to our Committee to ensure the integrity and independence of both the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we ask that you schedule hearings with the key players in this matter—former Director Comey, Attorney General Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein—as soon as practicable and certainly by no later than May 25, 2017.”

That date has come and gone, but the dismissal of Director Comey still demands a clear and compelling explanation and the Administration still has provided none. The President openly contradicted the original explanation that he was following the Deputy Attorney General’s advice: “I was going to fire Comey. Regardless of the recommendation I was going to fire Comey.”

The White House also claimed: “Comey had lost the confidence across the board — from House members, from Senate members, from rank-and-file members of the FBI and the American public. When you have that happen, you can’t serve in that capacity.”

But Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted that claim too: “Director Comey enjoyed broad support in the FBI and still does to this day.”

Why then was he fired?

A member of your committee, Rep. Gutierrez, wrote to you and White House Counsel Don McGahn last Friday, asking that you accept the President’s statement that his is “100%” willing to testify under oath regarding his conversations with Comey:

“It is the House Judiciary Committee that should be the venue for the President to defend himself against the serious allegations of official misconduct, including but not limited to apparent attempts at obstruction of justice in the removal of Mr. Comey in order to relieve the ‘pressure’ the President was feeling from investigations related to his campaign’s ties to Russian meddling in America’s most recent presidential election. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent on you as Chairman to immediately invite the President to testify.”

Will you please restore the seriousness of the House Judiciary Committee by asking the President to appear before them?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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