BREAKING: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz Will Not Finish His Term

We knew this was coming, as the news first leaked several weeks ago.

Now, it has been made official.

Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz will not only not be seeking reelection, but he will not finish his current term.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is expected announce Thursday that he is resigning before the end of this congressional term, according to three sources familiar with his plans.

Chaffetz currently serves as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and is deeply embroiled in the ongoing investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as possible entanglements of Donald Trump’s campaign staff and aides with Moscow.

When Chaffetz first announced that he would not seek reelection, he said it was because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Sources are saying he will leave Congress on June 30.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz Considers a Career Change

Last month, rumors began to fly about Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, and his future in Congress.

According to reports, Chaffetz was giving up on life in Washington and would not be seeking reelection.

Shortly after that, the rumor mill was further whipped up, as it was revealed that Chaffetz would possibly bail his post before the current term was over.

After a short stint away to have emergency surgery on his foot, Chaffetz came barreling back, but it didn’t take long for the latest bit of news to emerge.

From The Hill:

The Utah Republican, who announced in April he would not seek reelection in 2018, may have plans to take on a “substantial role” on air at Fox News, Washingtonian reported.

The report cited two GOP lawmakers and four senior House Republican aides who have knowledge of Chaffetz’s plans.

The role could start as early as July, according to the publication.

You have to imagine that talking about what goes on in Washington is likely much easier than actually working in Washington.

And the pay has to be better.

“Let’s just say that when Jason told us he was headed to Fox, no one was surprised,” one senior House Republican aide said.

A House Republican member close to Chaffetz said he was “gunning for it.”

“Fox was his first choice once he announced his plans,” the House Republican member said.

“He’s probably one of the most media-capable members in the House,” another senior House Republican aide said, “just based on total time spent on a television camera.”

Rep. Chaffetz has spent quite a bit of time on-camera with Fox News and other outlets.

Will this be the absolute end of Chaffetz in the realm of public service?

Probably not. He has indicated that he may run for office again one day, but that day won’t be in 2018.

Obama’s High-Dollar Speech May Cost Him His Pension

We’ve heard a lot lately about Barack Obama’s decision to accept $400,000 for an upcoming Wall Street speech. Beyond the obvious question of who would pay that kind of money to listen to Obama for half an hour, the decision has garnered criticism from his fellow Democrats for what they see is the hypocrisy of accepting such a large sum from Wall Street.

Now it looks like his high-dollar speech could come back to haunt him. It all goes back to a bill Obama vetoed back in July that would have curtailed the presidential pension when a former president earns more than $400,000 in income.

In 2016, the bill had complete bipartisan support, and the president vetoed it without warning. This year lawmakers are looking at introducing the same legislation.

“The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and sponsor of the 2016 bill. “His veto was very self-serving.”

Chaffetz and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the sponsor of the companion Senate bill, say they will re-introduce the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act this month. The bill would cap presidential pensions at $200,000, with another $200,000 for expenses. But those payments would be reduced dollar-for-dollar once their outside income exceeds $400,000.

The way it works now is that each living former president gets at least a base pension equal to the salary of a current cabinet member, which is currently $207,800, along with $150,000 in expenses and staff salary. Each former chief executive’s package is different, but the current total benefits package for the five living former presidents adds up to just under $3.9 million.

An Obama spokesman did not comment on the pending legislation, but an adviser did defend the 44th president’s speaking engagements:

“President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time,” said Eric Schultz, a former White House spokesman who continues to advise Obama. “Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record.”

 

Jason Chaffetz Takes Leave Of Absence From Congress For Medical Emergency

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced on Wednesday that he is taking an emergency medical leave of absence that will last up to four weeks. The representative, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, published an Instagram post detailing his reason for taking time off.

Almost 12 years ago, I shattered several bones in my foot which required 14 screws and a metal plate to repair. Yes, I wish I could say I was cliff diving in Mexico but the truth is I fell off a ladder while repairing something in my garage. The University of Utah doctors now recommend immediate surgery to remove all the hardware or I could be at risk for serious infection.

Chaffetz admits that the timing of his surgery couldn’t be much worse but that, as we have all seen from time to time, health can’t always wait.

My recovery is expected to take three to four weeks. I’m sorry to miss the important work we are doing in Washington. This is not an opportune time to be away but medical emergencies are never convenient. I appreciate my constituent’s patience and understanding as I take time to recover.

Our prayers are with Congressman Chaffetz as he heads home to have this matter taken care of.

 

Jason Chaffetz: Why is Michael Flynn Asking for Immunity?

Thursday’s news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had reached out to the FBI, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence committees, stating he was willing to testify, in exchange for immunity has raised a lot of questions.

Foremost has to be: Immunity from what?

Flynn was forced to step down from his role as national security adviser in February, after it was learned that he lied to Vice President Pence about conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

On Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to call the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election a “witch hunt” and said Flynn should seek immunity.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee spoke with Fox News later in the morning and seemed to disagree with the president.

“No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Chaffetz said. “Look, it’s very mysterious to me, though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity. A, I don’t think Congress should give him immunity. If there’s an open investigation by the FBI, that should not happen. I also don’t believe that actually that the president should be weighing in on this. They’re the ones that actually would prosecute something.”

“And I don’t think Donald Trump should be weighing in on this at this point,” he said. “But I don’t think there should be given immunity, either. I mean, immunity from what? We don’t know what that is.”

I have to agree with Rep. Chaffetz, here.

We don’t know what this is.

I’ve heard from several lawyers who seem to be of the same belief, that when it comes to seeking immunity, it could be something, but could just as easily be a big, procedural nothingburger.

What does not need to happen is for a sitting president to take to social media and turn the heat up, by shining a bigger spotlight on the issue.

Let the process play out.

Asked if Flynn’s request for immunity indicated that he may be guilty of something, Chaffetz conceded that “it doesn’t look good.”

“If all of a sudden you have somebody stand up and say, ‘Hey, I need immunity,’ you know, it kinda raises your eyebrows,” he said. “Even General Flynn back in the day said and used that same thing against Hillary Clinton. So, you know, it comes around to bite you, and I just think they need to get to the facts.”

Chaffetz is referring to a comment Flynn made in September 2016, regarding the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, where her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and four aides all asked for immunity.

While speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Flynn said you don’t ask for immunity unless you’re guilty of something.

Well, that’s unfortunate.

Chaffetz went on:

“There are some swirling things that need to be answered,” he added.

And he is right.

There are things that need to be answered, but with each new day, there seems to be another twist of intrigue to this tale.

Republicans say Sessions Should Recuse Himself From Russia Probe, Call for Special Prosecutor

Russia ties may be about to claim another member of the Trump Administration. New reports by the FBI indicate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose meetings with the Russian Ambassador when directly questioned on the subject during his Senate confirmation hearings.

Sessions was asked by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

“Senator Franken I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Sessions replied unequivocally.

Subsequent revelations from the FBI revealed Sessions’ answer to be untrue. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on at least two occasions. The first meeting was in Cleveland, Ohio during the Republican National Convention where then-Senator Sessions spoke at a Heritage Foundation event attended by several ambassadors. Kislyak and several other ambassadors approached Sessions after the speech for what a Sessions spokesperson called a “short and informal” conversation.

The second meeting occurred when Kislyak visited Sessions’ Senate office for an in-person meeting. A specific date for the meeting was not given, but it occurred sometime in 2016.

Sergei Kislyak was the same Russian official who had been in contact with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it was revealed that he had lied about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

After reports of the meeting broke, Sessions released a short statement on Twitter saying, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.” The most recent statement is a subtle change from his earlier categorical denial of any meetings at all with the Russians.

As the revelations mount, Republicans are becoming more critical of the Trump Administration’s handling of the Russia investigation. Over the weekend, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a Trump supporter during the campaign, called for a special prosecutor, telling CNN, “You are right that you cannot have somebody, a friend of mine — Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who was an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office … not just to recuse. You can’t just give it to your deputy. That’s a political appointee.”

Now Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is echoing that call. “There may be nothing there, but if there is something there, that the FBI believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor,” Graham told The Hill.

Graham added, “If there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, they may be legitimate; they may be OK. I want to know what happened between the Trump campaign, the Clinton campaign and the Russians.”

Earlier this morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted, “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” Chaffetz is chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

As a senator on the Armed Services Committee, Sessions had legitimate contacts with numerous foreign officials. Nevertheless, it is troubling that he would deny meeting with Kislyak at a time when there is heightened sensitivity about contacts with the Russian government. Simply disclosing the meetings would have led to fewer questions than failing to do so has done.

There are now two big questions to be answered. First, why did Sessions meet with Kislyak in the first place? Second, why did he lie about it?

As with Flynn, Sessions’ obviously false statement cuts to the core of his credibility and leaves his integrity in question. Can America trust an attorney general who lied about meeting with the representative of hostile foreign power?

It is possible that Sessions misspoke in his answer to Franken or forgot about the meeting, but these explanations have their own problems. Given Flynn’s problems with Russia, Sessions had a duty to make himself clear on his own meetings with Russia, whether or not they involved the campaign. Knowing that the subject was sure to come up, he should have researched his own contacts to refresh his memory. Instead, Sessions volunteered the information, beyond the scope of Franken’s question, that he had never met with the Russians. Even if it was an innocent mistake, his integrity and honesty are now seriously questioned.

The scandal of contacts between the members of the Trump campaign and the Russians is growing larger rather than going away. Loss of trust can be especially damaging for an administration that has promised to fight corruption and “drain the swamp.” Members of the Trump Administration should learn a lesson that Hillary Clinton never seemed to understand: The cover-up is often more damaging than the act itself.

Chaffetz Kills Public Lands Bill After Backlash From Sporting Community

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced he is withdrawing a bill that would have sold off 3.3 million acres of public lands across 10 states following backlash from the sporting community.

The Disposal of Excess Federal Lans Act of 2017 (or H.R. 621) would have directed “the Secretary of the Interior to sell certain Federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, previously identified as suitable for disposal, and for other purposes.” This would have encompassed 3.5 million acres–  roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut.

Many saw this as a threat to access to hunting and fishing on public lands, so Chaffetz felt it was wise to withdraw the bill and let it die in the House Natural Resources Committee.

OutdoorLife reported on hunting group opposition to the bill:

Pheasants Forever shared a petition on its Facebook page the calls lawmakers to keep federal lands public. The petition has about 39,000 signatures and is a group effort supported by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Remington, Powderhook, National Wildlife Federation, and many others. Signing the petition online automatically sends the following letter to your local congressmen and women.

Many hunters and anglers are torn on management of public lands. Citing fears of an encroaching federal government, some in the sporting community would like to see the Bureau of Land Management and similar government entities reigned in for abuses in power. Others believe handing over control of public lands to states –even a smidgeon of it — will undermine the pristine nature of public lands. I myself am torn on this issue as a conservationist and angler–though I believe there could be some consensus achieved and less government meddling in hunter/angler rights.

Had this passed now, the consequences would have been dire.  Many in the sporting community heavily vote Republican and are conservative, so this would have alienated many in our base.  Good on Chaffetz to prioritize other legislative items. He and other House Republicans should turn their efforts into passing the Hearing Protection Act, which would deregulate suppressors.