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Trump's chief of staff loved congressional oversight — until he worked for Trump

Before he was White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows chaired a House Oversight Committee panel.

By Josh Israel - June 09, 2020
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White House chief of staff Mark Meadows

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is reportedly blocking Trump administration officials from testifying before Congress. But during his tenure as a Republican member of the House of Representatives, he tried to impeach people who stood in the way of congressional oversight.

Politico reported on Sunday that Meadows has implemented a requirement that everyone in the administration must get his permission before they can testify before Congress.

In May, news outlets reported on a similar effort by Meadows to block members of the administration’s coronavirus task force from testifying before Congress without his advance permission. ABC News reported that similar restrictions applied to Cabinet-level officials.

The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the policy.

A review of Meadows’ record during his seven-plus years representing North Carolina in the House of Representatives finds he was a fierce supporter of congressional oversight and “accountable government” — especially for former president Barack Obama’s administration.

In February of this year, his party tapped him to become the top minority-party member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, but he resigned from Congress in March to join the administration.

Before the 2018 elections wiped out the House Republican majority, Meadows served as chair of the government operations panel for the committee. He was appointed to the position in December 2014 and held it for four years —with the exception of a few days in June 2015, when he was temporarily stripped of this role for bucking leadership on a procedural motion.

From 2013 until 2016, he was one of the leading forces behind a GOP-led investigation into the Internal Revenue Service as a member of the oversight panel. Meadows and other Republicans falsely claimed that the agency targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny during the application process for tax-exempt status.

He frequently attacked then-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for not being sufficiently transparent about the matter, threatening to hold him in contempt, and even launching an effort to impeach him in 2016.

“I appreciate your opinion,” Meadows scolded Koskinen at a March 2014 hearing. “I could tell you the people that I represent believe you’re stonewalling.”

He also tried to punish Lois Lerner, the former IRS unit director in charge of the exempt organizations, for refusing to testify before the House.

In May 2014, Meadows voted to hold her in contempt of Congress for her refusal to comply with a committee subpoena. After Lerner gave an interview to Politico that September, he put out a statement arguing, “If Ms. Lerner truly believes she didn’t do anything wrong, as she stated, then there is absolutely no reason for her to not testify under oath before Congress and provide answers to the American taxpayers.”

In May 2014, Meadows demanded a special investigation into the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya — a subject that had already been investigated by numerous other committees.

“If it is real damning to Hillary Clinton and the decision she makes it would certainly affect that,” Meadows said at the time. “Everything has an element of politics in it, so perhaps somewhat. But really what most Americans want is that justice is served.”

At a September 2014 hearing on whether the Obama administration was obstructing the work of its inspectors general, he made a passionate case for transparency.

“This continued stonewalling of access to documents, what kind of harm, potential harm can you see that would come from this, specifically with your work?” he asked one inspector general. “So what rationale would be out there to justify — and this question is to all of you,” he asked the panel, “What rationale is out there to preclude you from getting information that would be deemed beneficial to the American people? Why should they withhold stuff from you?”

Meadows also demanded the General Services Administration provide Congress with information on their consumer recall procedures in 2016 and that the IRS produce information on its employee bonuses in 2013.

In 2018, Meadows even attempted to impeach Rod Rosenstein, Donald Trump’s deputy attorney general, after the Justice Department refused to hand over records relating to the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and to Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Meadows complained that under Rosenstein, “the agency has made every effort to obstruct legitimate attempts of congressional oversight,” and that “Multiple times we’ve caught DOJ officials hiding information from Congress, withholding relevant documents, or even outright ignoring congressional subpoenas.”

But now, under Trump, it may be Meadows who is making every effort to obstruct legitimate congressional oversight. With Meadows’ new rule in place, the Trump administration reportedly refused to allow Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to even give routine testimony to a Republican-controlled Senate committee last week.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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