Last night, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, where Chaffetz was asked how he would know if the Justice Department fully complied with subpoenas issued by his committee for documents.
“Look, we have a storied and horrific background on this,” explained the Utah representative, retiring after this, his fifth term in Congress. “You can go from everything from Fast and Furious to the Benghazi investigation, email, IRS, anything pretty much over the last eight years, which I’ve served in Congress, and I don’t believe we ever got a full production out of the Department of Justice or the State Department.”*
“I can issue a subpoena unilaterally. It’s part of my constitutional responsibility to provide that check and balance,” argued Chaffetz. “But that subpoena is only as strong as its ability to be enforced.”
Problem? Enforcement requires Congress to work through the DOJ, part of the executive branch. Tricky . . . when the Department of Justice** itself is being subpoenaed.
“You’ve seen, for instance, Judicial Watch,” Rep. Chaffetz noted. “Tom Fitton has much more power using a Freedom of Information Act, because he can get to the courts and the courts can force them.”
“The Department of Justice is afraid of a court; they’re not afraid of Congress.”
He added, “And we don’t use the power of our purse; we don’t beat it over their head and we don’t enforce it. And so it’s somewhat feckless, and it’s very frustrating as somebody who is chairman of the oversight committee.”
“Congress should have an expedited way to get to the courts to enforce those subpoenas,” Chaffetz offered.
Why, then, doesn’t Congress enact such a process?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* “And that continues, by the way,” Chaffetz added. “One of my frustrations, with all due respect to the Trump administration, is that they have not loosened up the documents that we have been requesting for years.”
** Or, for that matter, any another executive branch agency.