Election 2020

Gowdy Leaving Congress, Returning to Justice Career

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) steps into a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 13, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has added himself to the growing list of Republican members of Congress — including House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who announced Monday — who don’t want to run for another term in November.

In fact, Gowdy declared today that he wants to leave politics behind altogether and return to his previous legal career.

“Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to the people of South Carolina for the privilege of representing them in the House of Representatives… I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve in the People’s House and — prior to Congress — to advocate on behalf of justice in our court systems,” Gowdy said in a statement.

“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political or elected office; instead I will be returning to the justice system,” he added. “Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system. As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.”

Gowdy said he wanted to make the announcement before filing opens in six weeks because “it is important to give the women and men in South Carolina who might be interested in serving ample time to reflect on the decision.”

The congressman thanked his family and colleagues, along with “those across South Carolina and our country who, over the past 7 years, have expressed words of encouragement, accountability and even criticism: thank you. All are needed for those in public service.”

“The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time and a season for all things. There is a time to start and a time to end,” he added. “There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”

Gowdy, a former assistant U.S. Attorney and 7th Circuit Solicitor, first came to Congress by defeating incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) in the Tea Party wave of 2010. He has won re-election by strong margins since, and led the House special investigation of the 2012 Benghazi attack.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Jan. 10, Gowdy stepped down from the House Ethics Committee, saying that four committee assignments was too much of a workload. “When I became Chairperson of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform I knew I would not be able to keep all other committee assignments to include Judiciary, Intelligence and Ethics,” he wrote.

Gowdy told CNN last week that he has “tremendous respect for the Department of Justice and the FBI” and “there is no member of Congress that holds that department in higher esteem than I do.”

“I have concerns about what was done in the spring and fall of 2016,” he said. “And I’m not a critic of the department. Not someone who alleges the department is corrupt. I’m a fan of the department.”

Gowdy reportedly convinced House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to share the four-page staff memo alleging FISA abuses at the FBI with Director Christopher Wray last weekend.

Having viewed the classified documents behind the memo, Gowdy said his counsel to President Trump on releasing the memo would be “don’t do it.”

“Do nothing to jeopardize sources and methods. Do nothing to jeopardize the women and men in the intelligence committee,” he said.

Gowdy also stressed that “you never heard me criticize Bob Mueller.”

“Every single FBI agent I know would look at what Bob Mueller is doing right now and say you are performing a national service from a counterintelligence standpoint and from a criminal standpoint. It’s just not how many pelts you can tack up against the wall in terms of guilty pleas and convictions – Bob Mueller’s also doing a counterintelligence investigation about a foreign adversary that attacked our country in 2016,” he said.

Gowdy also told the network that he hoped Trump didn’t ask former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe how he voted, as reported, because it’s “nobody’s business.”

“There is a curtain at the voting booth I vote in. No one should ever ask anyone else who they voted for… I’d never asked a cop in my entire life, ‘Are you a Republican or Democrat?'” he said. “It doesn’t come up in the law enforcement context. So I hope Mr. McCabe was not asked that question and I hope he didn’t answer it.”

On Sunday, Gowdy told Fox that he backs Mueller “100 percent, particularly if he’s given the time, the resources and the independence to do his job.”

“I told my Republican colleagues, leave him the hell alone, and that’s still my advice,” he said.