The potential of a wide-ranging investigation poses enormous political risks for the White House.
It appears that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is turning the lights back on at the House Oversight Committee to press the Trump White House to explain why an alleged wife beater was hired for a sensitive staff position. And why that person was able to keep his job without the proper security clearance.
Given the burgeoning scandal, the move would appear to be a no-brainer. But ever since Trump was inaugurated, Republicans on that crucial House committee, which is chaired by Gowdy, have made sure to give the White House virtual free reign, refusing to hold hearings and hold the executive branch accountable for obvious missteps.
But the current unfolding controversy appears to reached a point where Republicans themselves can no longer ignore the startling set of facts in play.
“How the hell did this happen?” Gowdy asked while appearing on CNN Wednesday morning, in reference to the idea that someone accused of beating his two ex-wives could land a job in the White House, and then keep that job after the FBI informed White House bosses about the abuse claims.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse? Again, I am biased toward the victim,” Gowdy said.
Whether Gowdy is kicking off a full-on investigation with planned, public hearings remains to be seen. Indeed, on CNN he seemed to back off the idea that he was agreeing to an “official” probe.
Additionally, Rep. Elijah Cumming, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, stressed on Wednesday that “the credibility of this investigation will be judged by how thorough it is in obtaining documents and interviewing witnesses, and how bipartisan it is in its conclusions.”
A wide-ranging investigation could present enormous political risks for the White House, in part because it would allow Democrats on the committee to question witnesses and raise all kinds of additional concerns about how the White House operates.
Nonetheless, in a letter sent to Trump’s beleaguered chief of staff John Kelly on Wednesday, Gowdy announced, “The Committee is investigating the policies and processes by which interim security clearances are investigated and adjudicated within the Executive Branch, and the extent to which any security clearances issued to Porter comported with those policies and processes.”
The letter was sparked by the Tuesday testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who confirmed the bureau briefed the White House multiple times on its investigation into Porter last year. That revelation clearly contradicted the White House’s spin about when it first learned of the allegations against Porter, the former staff secretary.
With House Republicans now finally demanding answers from the White House, the pressure mounts on Porter’s former boss, John Kelly: What did he know, and when did he know it?