Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is next in line to become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is reportedly considering a run for the high-profile post — as his Republican colleagues egg him on. Gowdy seems to get along well with everyone on both sides of the aisle, while having a reputation as a dogged and hyper-focused questioner with a knack for getting to the heart of the matter.
The former prosecutor would be replacing current Oversight Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who formally announced this week that he will be leaving Congress next month. Chaffetz on Facebook said simply that it was “a personal decision to return to the private sector.” Perhaps he has something more lucrative than serving in Congress in mind. Last week, the Washingtonian reported that Chaffetz has been in talks with Fox News, where he may take on what one source called a “substantial role.”
Gowdy, who chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has started buttonholing members of the House Steering Committee in recent days to build support. Five members of that panel, which decides committee assignments, told POLITICO that Gowdy would easily win a race for the job should another member challenge him.
If he does clinch the chairmanship, Gowdy would oversee the sensitive investigation into whether President Donald Trump pressured the FBI to drop a federal investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, previously chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi and was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration. This time, however, he’d be the top congressional watchdog for a Republican presidency.
“Trey is more than qualified to be the next chairman of Oversight,” said Steering Committee member Tom Graves (R-Ga.), who intends to nominate Gowdy for the post. “He has a lot of support from our conference, and given the responsibilities that come with the position, and his past pedigree [as a prosecutor], he’s perfect for the job.”
Amanda Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Gowdy, did not confirm his bid for the position, but said in a statement: “Rep. Gowdy is talking to members in the conference about the qualities they believe are most important for the next chairman to possess.”
Upon learning of Chaffetz’s departure several weeks ago, GOP leaders begged Gowdy to run. He initially rebuffed their pleas and has often mused to colleagues about how he wants to retire and return to South Carolina to spend more time with his family.
When his name first started circulating for the job, many Republicans believed Gowdy would not take it. That view only solidified earlier this week when Gowdy turned down Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ invitation to consider becoming the next FBI director.
But Gowdy changed his mind after a number of his colleagues lobbied him to step up, a situation one Steering panel member likened to when Paul Ryan reluctantly agreed to become speaker.
Other lawmakers may decide to run against Gowdy. Oversight is stocked with House Freedom Caucus conservatives who want one of their ringleaders, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), to take the position. Jordan, like Gowdy, is also known for his fierce interrogations of Obama administration officials and is more senior than Gowdy. He does not, however, have as many allies on the Steering Committee, which is composed mainly of loyalists to House leaders.
One of Chaffetz’s last actions as chairman was launching the inquiry into President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey this week, after media reports suggested that the president had earlier urged Comey to end the investigation of his former national security advisor and friend, Michael Flynn.
Gowdy, who would be taking over that investigation, said on Fox News on Tuesday that he’d like to see the memos Comey wrote about his interactions with Trump before he was fired.
“I want to see the memo [and] I want to talk to Director Comey to determine how contemporaneous his recording of the conversation was,” Gowdy said. “What did Director Comey hear? How did he take it? … That can only be done by looking at the memo and talking to Director Comey.”