‘The Committee is seeking documents for future public disclosure to harass and embarrass the President and his senior advisors…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) The honeymoon is over—if ever there were one—on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after two top-ranking GOP members said Democrats secretly obtained leaked White House documents and gave them to the media but not to committee members.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, had written a letter of praise in late January to new Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., for his overtures at transparency and for vowing to include opposition party members in discussions about calling witnesses before hearings.
On Monday, though, Jordan and fellow committee member Mark Meadows, R-NC—both strong voices within the Freedom Caucus and staunch supporters of President Donald Trump—did the opposite, issuing a letter of complaint that castigated Cummings for failing to follow through on those 6-week-old pledges.
“These actions are not indicative of the objective, fact-based oversight you promised,” they said.
The concern related specifically to an investigation into the security clearances of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom serve in official advisory capacities in the White House.
On March 8, Axios reported that the Oversight Committee had received leaked documents pertaining to the process by which Ivanka Trump and Kushner had been granted security clearances.
Jordan and Meadows said that the Oversight Democrats never made them aware of the leaked documents or provided copies.
“We first learned about these documents from Axios’s reporting,” Jordan and Meadows said. “However, according to the article, the Committee had been in possession of the documents since early February.”
The two said that by keeping them in the dark, Cummings had broken not only his own pledge for transparency and bipartisanship, but also had violated the committee’s norms of courtesy and convention.
“[T]he Axios article—if accurate—suggests a departure from the Committee’s historical practice of sharing documents that will be made publicly available,” Jordan and Meadows said.
Although Cummings had earlier requested the documents through official channels, the White House refused to provide them, making the leak itself as significant a part of the Axios story as the contents of the purloined materials.
Because Jordan and Matthews are said to be in regular communication with Trump, it poses a particular challenge for Cummings in his efforts to pursue White House investigations without having them share details with the president.
But while being in possession of the leaked documents—unbeknownst to Trump—may provide a strategic advantage, Cummings’s surreptitious methods for obtaining and disseminating information risk violating the same sort of ethical practices that he is claiming to investigate.
“By not sharing documents with us, you are depriving us of the opportunity to participate in and be aware of the Committee’s work,” Jordan and Meadows said. “Without access to these documents, we cannot determine whether the information in the Axios story is cherry-picked, inaccurate, or out of context.”
They also criticized Cummings for leaking some of the documents to Axios, effectively undercutting the integrity of the investigation.
“By providing documents to the media before the Committee issues any reports or holds any hearings, one may conclude that the Committee is seeking documents for future public disclosure to harass and embarrass the President and his senior advisors,” Jordan and Meadows said.
The two have frequently clashed with Cummings since the new Congress began its session in January. They made their presence well known during the recent public testimony of convicted felon Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, calling the hearings a “rigged deal.”
In their letter, they said that they detected a pattern in Cummings’ partisan approach of excluding its GOP members.
“As the star witness of your first big hearing, you invited Michael Cohen, a convicted liar who then lied to the Committee several times under oath. … Now, if accurate, you are leaking documents to the media without providing access to the minority.”