For years, I worked with congressional Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vigorously police Barack Obama’s presidency.
We attacked the Obama administration with speed and enthusiasm. No corner of the federal government was safe from our scrutiny. Any appearance of impropriety was thoroughly investigated.
We told the American people and ourselves that taxpayers had a fundamental right to know what was going on with their money inside their government. Like a mantra, we spoke out about the need to hold the executive branch accountable and provide a check-and-balance to the president’s power.
Flash forward to 2017: Under the Trump administration and an even larger congressional majority, oversight Republicans are completely MIA.
What happened to their bravado and self-righteousness? What happened to holding the president to the highest possible standard of ethical scrutiny?
A new report from Bloomberg reveals how President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is on a desperate “hunt for cash” to address “hundreds of millions of dollars” his family’s real-estate business owes on a “41-story office building on Fifth Avenue.”
The mortgage on the building is due in just 18 months. And Kushner’s “hunt for cash” appears to be an international one, shaking the money trees in South Korea, France, Israel, China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
At the same time, Kushner, as reported by the Washington Post, has been playing the role of “shadow diplomat,” becoming the “primary point of contact for presidents, ministers, ambassadors from more than two dozen countries — in Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.”
In June, when Kushner, who has zero diplomatic and foreign policy experience, traveled to the Middle East to pursue a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it is conceivable that he was simultaneously furthering his “hunt for cash.”
Remember when candidate Trump accused Hillary Clinton of running a “vast criminal enterprise” out of the State Department?
Well, Mr. President, what in the world would you call what your daughter’s husband is doing right now from inside the West Wing?
At best, it’s a conflict of interest. At worst, it’s an invitation for bribery.
Either way, it is beyond inappropriate for Kushner to continue working inside the West Wing and on the federal government payroll. He may be using his position and proximity to the president to gain access to high-profile, international money men in the hopes that they’ll cut him and his family a hundred-million-dollar check.
What strings do you think that check would come with, and does anybody really believe those strings align with the best interests of the United States of America?
Keep in mind, Kushner still has a security clearance!
And when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., led an effort in July to revoke that clearance, congressional Republicans unconscionably blocked it because they would rather play politics than act in the best interests of the country they are sworn to protect. They apparently think it’s fine to leave our country vulnerable to someone who is a prime target for blackmail and financial extortion.
Remember, too, that congressional Republicans were foaming at the mouth at the prospect of investigating Clinton and the Clinton Foundation had she won the presidency. Some of their activities certainly warranted scrutiny — but no more so than what Kushner’s up to.
So much for the devotion to vigorous oversight that we championed and regurgitated for the eight years under Obama.
I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that if a relative of Obama had been working in the West Wing while also soliciting foreign dollars for the family business, we would have launched a full-scale investigation that would have included depositions, subpoenas and congressional hearings.
Maybe the congressional oversight committees will finally start doing their jobs and investigate the “vast criminal enterprise” being operated out of the West Wing. More likely, nothing will happen and Trump, with the silent acquiescence of Republicans in Congress, will help institutionalize this corruption.
Kurt Bardella is a political commentator and a former spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.