Trey Gowdy Tapped to Take Over as House Oversight Chair

The Republican known for leading the House Benghazi Committee is poised to helm a powerful investigative committee in Congress.

U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in Washington, January 6, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, who is best known for leading a contentious congressional investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terror attack, is poised to become the new chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

House Republicans on the GOP Steering Committee tapped Gowdy on Thursday to take over as chairman of the panel, which serves as the primary investigative committee in the House of Representatives.

“I am grateful to the Steering Committee and the Conference as a whole for this opportunity to serve,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside the other Committee members, as well as any members of Congress.”

Gowdy would replace Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, who announced in May that he would step down from Congress at the end of June. Taking over as chair of the committee will put Gowdy in a familiar role, and back in the spotlight, following his tenure as the chairman of the House Select Committee set up to investigate Benghazi.

Chaffetz has faced fierce criticism from liberal detractors who argue he has neglected the committee’s responsibility to probe the vast potential for conflicts of interest created by President Trump’s sprawling business empire. During a town hall in Utah earlier this year, an angry crowd confronted Chaffetz with chants of “do your job!”

The House Oversight Committee hasn’t entirely sat on the sidelines in investigating the Trump administration, however. In May, Chaffetz demanded that the FBI turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings” of former FBI Director James Comey’s interactions with Trump after The New York Times reported that Comey kept memos of his meetings with the president. The Times report stated that Trump asked Comey to intervene in an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser.

Gowdy will have a chance to shake up the leadership and management of the committee and steer its future direction under the Trump presidency, but may face pressure, or pushback, from members of his own party not to intensify scrutiny of the White House.

Gowdy, a former prosecutor, worked to cast the Benghazi investigation in a non-partisan light. The investigation became the subject of intense controversy and criticism, most notably when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested in 2015 that the panel had been used to score political points against Hillary Clinton. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?,” he said during an interview. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

In announcing his resignation, Chaffetz said little about his next steps, though he has reportedly told other Republicans he expects to join Fox News. The full House Republican conference is expected to confirm the decision to make Gowdy the Oversight Committee chair next week.