Days after Republican Congressman Darrell Issa broke with GOP leadership and called for a special prosecutor to investigate ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, he voted against an effort by House Democrats to pressure the U.S. Department of Justice to turn over information to Congress on any “criminal or counterintelligence investigations” into Trump and his campaign or administration associates.
Through a spokesman, Issa characterized the “resolution of inquiry” heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday as an attempt to politicize the investigation early on, saying releasing information to Congress rather than an independent investigator is the wrong course.
“Over the weekend, I called for an independent review of Russia. I believe that is the best path to get the American people the answers they deserve,” Issa said in a prepared statement, adding the resolution was “an attempt by the Democrats at political interference rather than the furtherance of the legitimate and impartial oversight we need.”
Issa was one of 18 Republican House members in the committee who voted to defeat the resolution. It had support from all 16 Democrats.
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Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, who put forward the resolution, criticized Republicans for voting it down after stifling several formal Democratic attempts for hearings into the matter. In addition to possible Russia ties, Nadler is asking for information on ethics and conflict of interest probes. He said at a news conference Tuesday that the public deserves a full investigation into potential conflicts with “President Trump’s breathtaking web of business entanglements, which he has refused to even disclose, and the close relationship he and his aides appear to have with Russia.”
In blocking the House resolution, Republicans are complicit in obstructing the release of information, spokesman Daniel Schwarz said on behalf of Nadler.
“Yesterday was the first time there has actually been a vote in Congress on these issues, which is significant because Republicans have been blocking these inquiries,” Schwarz said. “There is going to be a lot more pressure brought on Republicans now. These members are now on the record that they did not want to get the information about Russia ties from the Department of Justice.”
While a broad investigation is underway, U.S. intelligence officials have said clearly that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election. In the highly charged political climate that has put Issa at odds with Trump and ranking Republicans in Congress, the nine-term Southern California congressman continues to rile his party by steering public attention to the Trump-Russia connection.
After calling for a special prosecutor on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night and again at the California Republican Party convention the following day, Issa said Monday in a news release that “the American people need a clear-eyed view of the nefarious actions of the Russian government.” Meanwhile, Issa recommended that the judiciary committee send a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to volunteer information to Congress.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted Issa for his stance, alleging that he is attempting to walk back his call for a special prosecutor. Committee spokesman Tyler Law said his statements this week amount to a political balancing act.
“Congressman Issa has spent the last year serving as one of President Trump’s biggest cheerleaders, so there was never any question that he would come crawling back,” Law said. “Issa’s penchant for political double speak and lack of independence from Trump, despite representing a district that has rejected him, is a major reason that Issa is one of the most vulnerable Republicans this cycle.”
Issa was nearly defeated by a Democratic newcomer last November in the southern California congressional he has represented since 2001. The district is considered a Republican stronghold but is now being targeted by Democrats seeking to flip it in 2018.
“The congressman hasn’t backed down or retreated on anything,” said Issa spokesman Calvin Moore. He “added additional detail to his claims but the congressman has said that, if an investigation were to go forward within the administration, the best way to handle that would be through an independent investigation.”
The differences between Issa and most Republican leaders were underscored at the state Republican Convention Saturday evening.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, told reporters that at present, such an investigation would amount to a “witch hunt.”
“At this point, there’s nothing there,” Nunes said. “This is almost like McCarthyism revisited.”