Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), head of the House Oversight Committee, is arguably one of the most powerful politicians in Washington.
On Wednesday, Chaffetz announced via Facebook that he’s not seeking another term in office in 2018. Chaffetz also told KSL News Radio’s Doug Wright that he’s considering not even finishing his term. Chaffetz said:
“I will continue to weigh the options, but I might depart early.”
The congressman’s reason for leaving office is about as old as the profession of prostitution but much less honest. He said that he wants to “spend more time” with his family.
Chaffetz’s committee has the authority to investigate any and everyone, from the president to multi-billion dollar corporations.
In fact, the House Oversight Committee is one of four that’s currently investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election as well as possible ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
However, lately, Chaffetz has faced growing pressure from his own constituents (who he affectionately refers to as “bullies“) over how he’s handling the investigation. Many believe that he’s purposely trying to subvert it to curry political favor with Trump.
There’s also another compelling explanation (albeit unproven and unsubstantiated). Political pundit Louise Mensch suggest that Chaffetz could be the victim of Russian blackmail. Mensch said:
“Sources say there is kompromat on Jason Chaffetzl (SIC) that this is why he turned and that FBI know it” (link).
But according to Snopes, these allegations amount to little more the hearsay without strong physical evidence.
McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, has a more realistic theory as to why Chaffetz is riding off into the sunset. Coppins writes:
Even before Chaffetz announced his abrupt exit, his political luck had suffered a steep decline when Trump was elected. As oversight chairman, he was preparing to spend four years investigating President Hillary Clinton’s alleged scandals and misdeeds.
Then the Republicans unexpectedly seized control of the White House, leaving Chaffetz with the unenviable task of policing his own party. It was a fraught job to begin with, and his casual attitude toward the Trump family’s potential conflicts of interest — demonstrated in his interview with me last month — has only increased the pressure on him.
“Aside from Trump and Clinton,” one Utah Republican told me last month, “nobody’s fortunes changed more on presidential election night than Jason Chaffetz.”
But here’s my theory. One which should have Trump shitting bricks.
For all his numerous faults, Jason Chaffetz is a smart politician who detects a growing political trend, one in which Trump’s plummeting approval ratings continues into 2020.
And facing that political albatross, party leaders will have no choice but to distance themselves further from the president and seek out a primary challenger to replace him on the ticket.
Should that happen, guess who will come out of the political wilderness as the “principled conservative” who stood up to Trump and left Washington in disgust?
Chaffetz could slowly rebrand himself before 2020 and have plenty of time to dip his toe in the water for both Utah’s governorship and the presidency.
Like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who vowed to vacate his seat to run for president in 2016 but later changed his mind, Chaffetz could also use the “my country needs me” excuse to throw his hat in the ring.
It kind of sounds crazy, until more Republicans start doing the same. Like Rachel Maddow always says, “put a pin in this one.”
Featured Jason Chaffetz image via Imgflip.com