On 13 February 2017, Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank accused House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) of begging off on investigating President Donald Trump in favor of probing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over a childrens’ show.
According to Milbank’s editorial:
The chairman of the powerful panel — the main investigative committee in the House — sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding to know why, in an attempt to raise awareness of the Zika virus, “CDC appears poised to make a sole source award to the Jim Henson Company for $806,000 to feature Sid the Science Kid in an educational program about the virus.”
Milbank said that Chaffetz contacted the CDC on 26 January 2017, a day after TMZ published a story about the alleged negotiation. We contacted both a spokesperson for Chaffetz and the CDC seeking confirmation of this alleged letter but have not yet heard back.
Milbank also wrote that the congressman “hasn’t shown any appetite to examine, say, the Trump administration’s ties to Russia or its many conflicts of interest.” While there has been no correlation shown between Chaffetz’s alleged contact with the CDC and his attitude regarding investigating the president, Chaffetz was jeered by constituents at a 9 February 2017 town hall after he said that Trump under the law is “exempt from the conflict of interests laws.”
The Utah lawmaker was also criticized by his committee’s Democratic Party members for failing to initiate an investigation into then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s alleged contact with Russian officials.
Flynn resigned from his position on 13 February 2017, the same day Milbank’s op-ed was published. A day later, Chaffetz said his committee would not investigate Flynn, explaining, “I think that situation has taken care of itself. I know that the [House Intelligence] committee is looking into the hacking issue.”
On 15 February 2017, Chaffetz and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) asked the Justice Department to investigate leaks of classified information that reportedly contributed to Flynn’s decision to resign. A day before contacting the Justice Department, Chaffetz also began looking into the treatment of classified information during a meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an 11 February 2017 meeting at the president’s Florida resort.
Additionally, Chaffetz contacted Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking criminal charges against Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department employee who helped Hillary Clinton set up a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State.