Email #76, Subject: “dictatorial shenanigans”?

I was disturbed to read that you prevented Rep. Luis Gutiérrez from meeting with the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If I understand correctly, Mr. Gutiérrez was asked to leave by your staffers, even though he was the one who requested the meeting? The ICE director was originally going to meet with Mr. Gutiérrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but cancelled. The meeting was then rescheduled with you running it and Mr. Gutiérrez and eight other Democrats barred from attending. You then announced that all future meetings with the ICE would have to be cleared by you first.

Mr. Gutiérrez stated afterwards:

“In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the Executive Branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend.  … The new mass deportation executive orders are unprecedented, but so are the lengths to which the Speaker and Chairman Goodlatte are going to control the information being disseminated to Members of Congress.  I expect such dictatorial shenanigans from the Trump Administration, but not from competent, compassionate legislators like Speaker Ryan or from legislators like Bob Goodlatte.”

Mr. Gutiérrez is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration policy in the House, and a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, as well as the Chairman of the CHC Taskforce on Immigration. Who better to meet with ICE? On what grounds are you excluding him? Although you chair the House Judiciary Committee and so oversee immigration policy in the House, you are not a member of the executive branch and so cannot give orders to ICE. The ICE director does not need your permission to schedule meetings. Your assuming that authority violates the Constitution’s three-branch system.

It would appear that you are excluding Mr. Gutiérrez solely because he is not a member of the Republican party. If so, this is a disturbing abuse of your power and a further erosion of the democratic norms of our government. If I have misunderstood the facts of the situation or the explanation for your behavior, please correct me immediately. Otherwise, your Virginia constituents, as well as Americans in general, deserve an apology.

And Rep. Gutiérrez deserves his meeting.

Email #56, Subject: who wrote the Muslim ban?

I just read that top staffers on your House Judiciary Committee drafted the President’s executive order for the Muslim ban. Since your Committee is in charge of immigration policy in the House, such coordination is on principle appropriate. Indeed, it is the President’s lack of consultation with other key government agencies that has added to the unnecessary chaos.

However, I also read that the White House did not coordinate with you personally. Is this true? You are the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Did your own staffers not inform you that they were taking orders from the White House? Did they not consult with their own Chair while drafting the executive order? Is it true that they instead coordinated only with the President’s nominee for Attorney General? Were you not even informed about what was happening? How is this possible? How can you have no authority over your own Committee?

You said “checking executive overreach” was one of your top priorities. And now the executive branch has commandeered your own staff who kept you ignorant of their controversial work. You are an elected member of Congress. Your staffers are not. Their job is to support Congress. At minimum they are supposed to be taking their orders from you and other members of the legislative branch, not from the executive branch. You assured me in a previous letter that there was no danger of President Trump abusing his authority because the Constitution divided power between the three branches of government. This division appears to have already broken down. One of the most influential Congressional committees is working directly for the White House while leaving their supposed boss completely out of the loop.

Even if you agree with the ban itself, the process behind it violates the principles of the Constitution that you have sworn to uphold. It is your duty as an elected Representative to act against this violation. You cannot put your personal policy preferences ahead of the Constitutional process itself.

Chris Gavaler

Email #29, Subject: Please audit the President-elect

I remain disturbed by President-elect Trump’s network of business interests and how they influence his decisions. President Carter sold his farm when he moved to the White House in order to reassure voters. President-elect Trump seems to be moving in the opposite direction, using the Presidency to expand his business interests. He’s remaining an executive producer at CBS and inviting foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotels. He has not agreed to put his business holdings in a blind trust, and instead is letting family members run them, even those who are simultaneously working with him in the White House. He said after the election he would release his tax records, but he’s not done even that. We need to know what his conflicts of interest are. I understand why you wouldn’t want to challenge your own Party’s leader, but ignoring the problem creates a much larger one. If his behavior continues he will violate the Constitution, and instead of avoiding calls for his tax records, you’ll be avoiding calls for his Impeachment. You are the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Your party and your nation need your leadership. Please make the President-elect follow through on his promise to release his tax records.

Chris Gavaler

Email #17, Subject: voter fraud

Donald Trump says that: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” That is a massive number.  A recent poll by Qualtrics shows that over half those who did vote for him believe that it is true. That’s an even more massive number. As the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, you must respond to this crisis. Either our election system is fraudulent, or the allegations are. America needs the facts, and the Judiciary Committee should provide them. Exactly how many cases of voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election have been documented? How many other investigations are pending? Is our system riddled with corruption or is the public misinformed? This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This is restoring trust in the single most important aspect of our government. It is your responsibility to act.

Chris Gavaler