Jason Chaffetz Says Goodbye

Departure comes amid uncertainty over special election, Russia probe

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz will leave Congress at the end of June. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz will leave Congress at the end of June. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 18, 2017 at 11:37am

Updated 3:25 p.m. | Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Thursday announced his plans to leave Congress before the end of his term. The move comes just when the Utah Republican has placed himself in the middle of the ongoing controversy over President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. 

In a letter to constituents, Chaffetz said he would leave Congress at the end of June. 

“I told voters I did not believe Congress should be a lifetime career,” the congressman wrote. “I knew from day one that my service there would not last forever.”

The news, first reported by Politico, puts into motion a potentially uncertain special election process in Utah, where state lawmakers are in a stare-down with Gov. Gary Herbert over how to elect Chaffetz’s replacement. Republicans in the Utah legislature want Herbert to call a special session so they can pass a law codifying how such an election would proceed, the Deseret News reported. Lawmakers are concerned that the current special election process doesn’t provide adequate time for candidates to engage in the election.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced last month that he would leave Congress at the end of his term.

With the Capitol gripped by reports that Trump had pressured Comey to quash an ongoing investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Chaffetz said on Wednesday he would invite Comey to testify in front of his committee next week. A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the Wisconsin Republican supported Chaffetz’s decision.

At the same time, the Utah lawmaker was sending signals about his future plans as well. 

“I put some things into motion,” Chaffetz said Wednesday on KSL Newsradio’s The Doug Wright Show when asked whether he wasconsidering leaving Congress early. “I’ll make announcements probably sooner rather than later. … I’m not willing or wanting to do that today.”

House GOP leadership appeared to be caught unaware of his plans. At his weekly news conference, Ryan said he had not spoken to Chaffetz about the possibility of him leaving Congress as early as next month and would not comment further until he had spoken to him. 

Lindsey McPherson, Bridget Bowman and Rema Rahman contributed to this story.