After weeks of rumors, hints, and innuendo, Jason Chaffetz formally announced this week that he’s resigning from Congress on June 30th. Although he had already revealed that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection, this resignation date comes almost shockingly early in his term. It paints him as a quitter, and hands an automatic talking point to his opponents if he ever does reenter politics. So why is he bailing so soon? Recent developments may point to something crucial about the timeline.
Although Chaffetz is well known for being the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, he also sits on the House Judiciary Committee in a non-chair capacity. That’s important, because House Judiciary is where, by rule, the impeachment process against the President first gets underway. One of his Democratic counterparts on that committee, Ted Lieu, has spent the past two days pointing out this fact and confirming that he’s already researching impeachment and removal (link). And then there’s this report which says the entire committee is considering Articles of Impeachment (link). So what does this have to do with Chaffetz?
If things really are this far along in the House Judiciary Committee, then it’s only a matter of time before the committee ends up holding a vote on whether the impeachment process should move onto the next step. If Chaffetz is hoping for a potential comeback in politics in the future, he’d be hurting himself no matter which way he votes. Trump loyalists in his conservative district and state would hate him if he votes for impeachment, while moderate republicans would blame him if he votes against impeachment.
The best move for Jason Chaffetz would be to not vote on the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment effort at all – and that requires getting out of dodge soon. So whatever else is going in with him, from the reports that he’s complicit in the Russia scandal himself, to the bizarre circumstances of taking a month’s leave for foot surgery and then returning immediately and so on, his final decision to bail just six weeks from now could be an attempt at avoiding having to vote on impeachment at the committee level one way or the other.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report