WASHINGTON - Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of one of the key congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, said Thursday he will resign from Congress effective June 30.
Chaffetz’s early departure opens up one of the most powerful posts in Congress. The Utah Republican heads up the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is the chamber’s lead investigative panel.
On Wednesday, Chaffetz announced that he planned to invite former FBI director James Comey to testify next week — just as a soon as he could get in touch with him. Comey had reportedly indicated in a series of memos that Trump asked him to scale back his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. In response to The New York Times report on those memos, Chaffetz demanded copies from the FBI of all of Comey’s records related to conversations with Trump by next week and threatened to subpoena the records if necessary.
But he will not be around to see that fight all the way through.
"I’ve slept on a cot in my office largely to save money for the Chaffetz family, but also to remind myself that my service there was temporary," Chaffetz wrote in a in a letter to constituents posted on his website Thursday. "Though the time away and the travel have been a sacrifice, our family has always been united that public service was the right thing to do. We feel my time in congress has been well spent, but it now seems the right time to turn the page."
Chaffetz had previously said he may leave before the end of his term but did not give any timeline. The move has left Republicans scrambling to find a replacement for him on the Oversight panel.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is one of the most senior committee members and has signaled his interest in succeeding Chaffetz as chairman, but it’s not clear whether he could win that prized slot. Jordan is a co-founder of the hard-charging House Freedom Caucus, and he has repeatedly clashed with House Republican leaders. They might be loath to hand Jordan such a powerful gavel given his strident conservative bent.
Meanwhile, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who is less senior than Jordan but close to both leadership and some of the more conservative members of the committee, is also entertaining the idea.
"Rep. Gowdy is talking to members in the conference about the qualities they believe are most important for the next Chairman to possess," Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez said.
Gowdy has been a go-to choice for Republicans for a variety of high-profile positions and was even a top candidate to replace Comey as FBI director.
Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen
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