GOP House Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz of Utah was poised in 2016 to launch his own political star into the stratosphere on the back of Hillary Clinton's expected win. Instead he's now tasked with policing a Republican administration rife with more conflicts of interest than a stray dog in the South has flees. And his interview with McKay Coppins is one lengthy reflection on why he'll never actually perform that duty.
On a recent afternoon in his Capitol Hill office, I read through a litany of headlines detailing potential entanglements between President Trump’s business and his administration with the congressman. As he listened, Chaffetz leaned back in his chair—jacket off, an ankle resting casually on one knee. One of the stories I flagged reported that online sales had skyrocketed for the First Daughter’s clothing line after Kellyanne Conway went on TV and urged Americans to “buy Ivanka’s stuff.” I asked Chaffetz if he was concerned about Trump reaping financial rewards from his presidency, but he just shrugged.
“He’s already rich,” Chaffetz said. “He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.”
How about the $400 million (now dead) deal the Kushner family sought with a Chinese firm while Jared Kushner steered Trump's foreign policy inside the White House?
“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars,” Chaffetz said. “Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”
It'll never be enough for Chaffetz, who has now adopted the very talking point Trump deploys to rationalize his unprecedented number of conflicts of interest.
“I think the people who voted for Donald Trump went into it with eyes wide open. Everybody knew he was rich, everybody knew he had lots of different entanglements."
This whole "he's already rich" schtick is such a distraction from the real issue at hand. Obviously, we don’t want people to be commercially selling their seat as a public servant, but here's the real rub with ethics rules, as explained by a Brookings Institution national security fellow and Harvard Law Review editor:
At their core, ethics rules are national security rules. They are designed to guard against conflicts to reassure the public that individuals trusted with matters of immense national importance are guided only by the best interests of the country.
In other words, it's not about profit, it's about how many liabilities one has that can be exploited by a subversive power. Gee, wonder if the Trump administration is carrying any exploitable national security liabilities?