“It seems to work for the president of the United States, so, Jason Chaffetz may have surmised, it should work for members of Congress, too,” the newspaper wrote. “But explaining away an unpleasant occurrence by fabricating facts about those who oppose you is something the Utah congressman should investigate, not emulate.”
Of course, the paper is referring to the Republican’s appearance over the weekend at a town hall event in Cottonwood, Utah, where angry constituents booed and scolded the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, chanting, “Do your job!” In the wake of the fiasco, Chaffetz chose an approach favored by Trump, claiming that the furious town hall crowd was infiltrated with paid out-of-state protesters.
“Absolutely. I know there were,” he told The Deseret News, adding it was “more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate” than a reflection of his own constituents’ feelings.
In its editorial, the Tribune says Chaffetz “spoiled” any reasonable argument he had tried to make about certain members of the crowd being there to cause a scene when he spouted his claim of paid outsiders “with no factual basis.”
“This is a congressional district-size version of the president’s oft-stated, never verified and wholly outrageous claim that the only reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in November is because millions of illegal votes were cast,” the paper writes. “In other words, it’s false.”
The editorial goes on to note that, although Chaffetz “has not backed off of his fanciful claim,” he has begun to “show a little political backbone” by launching a probe into Trump’s handling of classified intelligence related to a North Korean missile launch while on a patio of his Florida club Mar-a-Lago.
Opening this line of questioning could be a first step toward some real congressional oversight of the administration. It could help Chaffetz walk back his foolish statement about how the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn was enough to solve some serious questions about what contacts Flynn may have had with Russian officials before the administration took office and, more importantly, what the president knew and when he knew it.
This administration is peppered with policy and political land mines. For his own good, and for ours, Chaffetz should be investigating them, not trying to copy them.
Earlier Tuesday, however, Chaffetz said he will not pursue an investigation of Michael Flynn, saying, “It’s taking care of itself.” Flynn resigned as national security adviser Monday night after it was revealed he had contact with Russia’s U.S. ambassador during the presidential transition about sanctions against the Kremlin and then misled the White House about those conversations.
Read the full Salt Lake Tribune editorial here.