House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte have requested an inquiry into whether government employees leaked classified information to journalists, following the resignation earlier this week of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
In a letter sent to the Justice Department’s inspector general Wednesday, Chaffetz and Goodlatte, both Republicans, wrote: “We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information here” and asked for an “immediate investigation.”
Chaffetz declined, however, to further investigate Flynn’s communications with the Russian government in December, telling journalists that the situation was “taking care of itself” and leaving any future probes to the House Intelligence Committee.
Such priorities echoed tweets from President Donald Trump this week that have repeatedly suggested the leaks are a bigger story than Flynn’s actions.
This week Democrats on Chaffetz’s committee wrote a letter in protest of his deference because “[i]t is difficult to imagine a more serious list of allegations for our Committee to investigate.”
Some Democrats argue that Chaffetz and other Republicans are more focused on defending their party’s president than on conducting objective oversight. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky gave some credence to these arguments earlier this week in a Fox News Radio interview: “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party.”
Kurt Bardella, who served as spokesman for the previous Republican House Oversight chairman, Darrell Issa, also said the Republicans were treating Trump differently than they treated Obama.
Flynn resigned his post as security council chief Monday night following reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
Flynn and members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, had publicly denied that Flynn discussed sanctions, but American intelligence officials listened in on the call and wrote up a transcript that suggested otherwise. The Justice Department informed Trump of the transcript weeks ago, but it wasn’t until the newspaper stories came out that Flynn resigned his post.
Chaffetz and Goodlatte cited the Post in their letter since it revealed the intelligence community monitoring Flynn’s call with Kislyak. “Generally, collection activities by intelligence agencies are classified,” they wrote.