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Hillary foe turns heads with Trump talk

Issued: 2018-03-28

It’s getting harder to figure out whose side Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFBI doubles personnel to respond to Goodlatte requests Cummings calls for hearings on citizenship census question Dem senator introduces bill to publicize Trump officials' flying MORE is on.

A fierce Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The secret is out — Bill Press reveals he is really purple in ‘From The Left’ FBI doubles personnel to respond to Goodlatte requests SE Cupp: Leave Trump like Clinton should have left her husband MORE critic who led the deeply polarizing investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the South Carolina Republican has more recently tweaked President TrumpDonald John TrumpCigna says it has reduced customers use of opioids by 25 percent Greens launch campaign to get Pruitt fired White House: 'Maximum pressure' campaign on North Korea is working MORE publicly over the federal investigation into his campaign, exhorting him, “When you are innocent, act like it.”

Gowdy has been one of his party’s louder defenders of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE and has called Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department “not helpful.”

Yet the retiring lawmaker is also leading an investigation into alleged bias at the FBI that critics see as the partisan successor to the Benghazi investigation. Democrats say the probe is designed to divert attention from the Mueller investigation onto a familiar GOP punching bag — Clinton — and muddy the waters surrounding his work.

In an interview with The Hill, Gowdy, who holds the gavel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, disputed the charge of partisanship and the notion that he has been liberated by his impending retirement to pursue the Trump administration.

Congress “is not a job that rewards fairness,” he often tells reporters. “I try to call balls and strikes.”

He is frustrated by suggestions that his probe of the Justice Department is politically motivated and disheartened that his oversight efforts have been viewed as “tension between a Republican president and Republican members of the House.”

“If you are at all critical of the bureau then you’re attacking law enforcement in today’s political discourse,” he complained. “If you have no curiosity whatsoever as to why [former FBI Director] Jim Comey would send two letters in the throes of a presidential race — that’s what I find amazing.”

He recalled a panel discussion with Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonChina tariffs hit Americans where it hurts: right in the sneakers Florida Republican calls on administration to 'reconsider' citizenship question Dems blast new citizenship question on census MORE (R-Ark.) shortly after the election, at a fundraiser hosted by a Cotton-led super PAC, in which the two lawmakers envisioned Republicans reasserting Congress’s authority as a co-equal branch of government.

“We said this is a unique opportunity for this branch to depoliticize oversight and say this is a branch issue,” Gowdy said.

A former federal prosecutor himself, Gowdy’s role in the multiple GOP investigations into alleged Justice Department misconduct is sometimes murky.

Gowdy, who also sits on the Judiciary and Intelligence panels, is at the confluence of three powerful committees investigating the Justice Department in some capacity. He frequently says the allegations against the department “break his heart,” but behind the scenes, he has been a guiding force.

At least publicly, he claims to defer to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFBI doubles personnel to respond to Goodlatte requests WATCH: Judiciary chair hasn’t talked second special counsel with Sessions Doug Collins to run for House Judiciary chair MORE (R-Va.) in the joint Judiciary-Oversight probe into the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) conduct during the 2016 presidential race, insisting that Goodlatte’s is the right committee to provide oversight of the department.

On the Intelligence Committee he has at times appeared to distance himself from Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTop Intel Dem: Minority 'absolutely' plans to continue Russia witness interviews FEC probing Nunes for possible campaign violations Top Russia probe Republican: 'No intention' of calling Cambridge Analytica officials back MORE’s (R-Calif.) efforts to expose alleged anti-Trump wrongdoing at the Justice Department.

Gowdy stepped in to edit a controversial memo spearheaded by staff for Nunes alleging misuse of U.S. surveillance authorities to obtain a court order to spy on former Trump campaign adviser  Carter Page.

In the weeks before Nunes revealed the document, rumors swirled that there was a group of committee Republicans researching alleged corruption at the FBI. Gowdy explicitly distanced himself from those efforts to reporters at the time, and he still appears uncomfortable with the four-page document, which was widely ripped by former intelligence officials.

“When a decision is made to do something and you are asked to edit it, that is involvement,” he said, when asked about his role in producing the final document. “I was asked to edit it and I did.”

He has also publicly contradicted Nunes’s assertion that lawmakers are investigating a “Phase Two” of wrongdoing at the State Department during the election. There is a “State Department component to this,” Gowdy said, but he also said he has “never subscribed to the second phase” described by Nunes. “To me, it’s all one big thing.”

At the same time, Gowdy is pursuing some of the core claims in the Nunes memo through his work with Goodlatte and has called for a second special counsel to look into the matter.

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