Oversight chairman: I won’t be ‘cheerleader’ for Trump

Oversight chairman: I won’t be ‘cheerleader’ for Trump
© Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzGuess who’s stumping for states' rights? GOP Rep. Gowdy slams Trump team for 'amnesia' on Russia meetings California Dem sworn in as House member after delay MORE (R-Utah) insisted Monday he won’t be a “cheerleader” for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem senator: Pardoning targets of Russia probe would be 'crossing a fundamental line' Trump lawyers looking into special counsel's potential conflicts of interest: reports Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report MORE but argued that the incoming president will be exempt from most federal conflict of interest laws.

“My job is not to be a cheerleader for the president. My job is to hold them accountable and they do not necessarily like it,” Chaffetz said during a news briefing with reporters.

He added that he is entering "new territory" with a Republican president but intends to "execute our constitutional responsibility to provide that oversight.”

Democrats on the Oversight panel have sent at least six letters calling on Chaffetz to open an investigation into Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. The New York real estate mogul has dozens of properties and business interests in foreign countries he will need to work with as commander in chief.

ADVERTISEMENT
Trump plans to address his perceived conflicts during a news conference on Wednesday, his first since he won the White House in November.

Chaffetz argued on Monday that his committee has not directly targeted President Obama himself in the past two years.

“My concern is to make sure there is compliance with the law. A president is exempt from a lot of these. I didn’t write those laws but that is the reality of it,” the chairman said. “I will not shy away from diving in and having a look.

“But ... in the two years I was chairman with Barack ObamaBarack ObamaOvernight Regulation: Trump administration reveals first regulatory agenda | GOP lawmakers introduce measures to repeal arbitration rule | Exxon gets M fine for sanctions violation Mounting nationwide immigration enforcement costs 20 attorneys general urge DeVos to keep college sexual assault protections MORE, I struggled to come up with one time I dove into Barack Obama’s background or went after him personally,” Chaffetz continued. “Where our committee has looked at are the departments, the agencies, the policies, the lack of compliance with the law."

Chaffetz called it “silly” that Democrats have sent letters demanding a congressional probe into Trump when he hasn’t even taken the oath of office.

“I’ve given some deference to letting him being sworn in till he’s an actual federal employee,” said Chaffetz, who conceded that Trump does have “some situations” he’ll have to “deal with” given that he’s a billionaire with tremendous assets and investments.

Earlier Monday, reports surfaced that Trump will name his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser in the White House, raising concerns that the appointment could violate federal anti-nepotism rules.

But Chaffetz waved off any questions about Kushner, saying he is “not directly familiar with what [Trump’s] son-in-law does or does not do.”

Though Chaffetz plans to meet soon with Trump’s incoming White House counsel, Donald McGahn, he said the Senate has a larger role in scrutinizing executive branch political appointees.

Although Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem senator: Pardoning targets of Russia probe would be 'crossing a fundamental line' Trump officials: Russia meddled in the election Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report MORE lost the election, Chaffetz said his committee’s probe into her emails while she served as secretary of State will continue in 2017. The State Department still has not turned over numerous documents requested by his panel, something Chaffetz said he hopes will change under the Trump administration.

“This was never a political targeting from the beginning,” Chaffetz said. “Just because there was a political election doesn’t mean it goes away. So of course I’m going to continue to pursue that.”