Republicans rage over White House plans to slow investigations
« At every turn, the Biden White House seeks to obstruct congressional oversight and hide information from the American people, » Comer said in a statement.
House Republicans were quick to clarify that their investigative plans, which had been in the works for months and included strategic meetings with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, were progressing regardless of the White House’s position. Comer said in an interview that he had already planned to quickly reissue all his requests for information to the new Congress, including for interviews and documents related to Hunter Biden’s trade deals, the withdrawal from Afghanistan the year latest and the administration’s handling of the pandemic. The White House’s newly formulated position would be little more than a short delay in that process, he noted.
A Jordanian spokesman likewise said Thursday that the letter from the White House would not be change the legislator’s schedule or strategy for issuing possible subpoenas next year.
And in another stab, the Biden White House has drawn inspiration for its new oversight posture in an unusual way: former President Donald Trump. In its letters to Comer and Jordan, the White House Counsel’s Office cited Trump administration legal opinions that Democrats have once called extreme and undemocratic.
Former House Oversight Committee President Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called the post « the latest in a series of abuses by the Trump administration to operate in secrecy. » Even Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, at the time, criticized the Trump White House for interpreting congressional oversight so narrowly.
A GOP Oversight aide called the White House position an « attempt to delay » that « reveals they are acting in bad faith. » The aide added that « oversight and accountability is coming regardless. »
Meanwhile, Jordan has already sent a slew of letters to the administration outlining the documents and interview requests he wants next year as Judiciary Committee chairman, warning potential witnesses that even if he would prefer voluntary testimony, he is prepared to use a « compulsory process if necessary ». ”
The relationship between the Biden administration and a GOP-controlled house was never going to run smoothly. A majority of Republicans backed attempts to challenge Biden’s 2020 victory and pointed to a slew of inquiries into everything from the president’s son to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing border crisis. And the White House, meanwhile, has been recruiting for months to handle the deluge of investigations over the next two years.
But the latest opening salvo from the White House appears to have struck a chord among congressional Republicans.
“The Biden White House is used to House Democrats and the media sweeping essential oversight under the rug. In 5 days, a new Republican majority will have the power and the obligation to get answers for the American people,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted Thursday.
Jordan and Judiciary Committee staff also spent Thursday playing social media against White House strategy and amplifying criticism from other corners of the party.
“The difference in how the ‘media’ has covered Trump administration surveillance and how they will cover Biden administration surveillance will be staggering. But that won’t stop us from doing our constitutional duty,” Jordan added in a tweet.
The White House’s decision is likely to spark accusations of hypocrisy from both sides. Democrats remained mostly silent on the announcement Thursday, after expressing outrage at the Trump administration’s decision years ago. And despite the current GOP fury, Jordan himself refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee on Jan. 6 this term.
Additionally, White House aides, in response to GOP criticism that officials aired their plans first with the media and not directly with Republicans, were also quick to point out that Jordan and Comer went on Fox News. earlier this year to announce a letter they sent as part of their investigation into the « origins » of the coronavirus.
It may be the most controversial White House decision to delay GOP investigations, but it’s not the first.
Comer wants the Treasury Department to turn over the so-called suspicious activity reports, known as SARs, tied to Hunter Biden as part of the GOP investigation into his trade deals. But the administration rejected those requests as Republicans were in the minority, noting that their policy requires that a committee chairman or a majority of panel members approve a request for reports, which are filed by financial institutions.
And Sauber, in his letter to Comer and Jordan, pointed to a similar distinction in Congress’s own rules, in addition to the Trump-era rationale, to argue that the GOP’s demands so far have not biting.
“Congress has not delegated such [oversight] authority to individual members of Congress who are not committee chairmen, and the House has not done so under its current rules,” Sauber wrote.
But the 2017 position drew outrage from then-minority House Democrats.
« We cannot do our job if the Trump administration adopts this unprecedented new policy of refusing to provide information to Congress unless a request is supported by the implied threat of a subpoena, » he said. Cummings said at the time.
The White House’s position, in theory, would put House Democrats at a disadvantage in the new term as they fall back into the minority unless they can get a GOP chair to bless their inquiry demands. . Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are expected to spearhead the party’s day-to-day defense of GOP investigations.
« Democrats should be offended by this [letter]but given that they haven’t asked for any surveillance information in the past two years, I don’t see them asking for anything in the next two years,” Comer said.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.