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Chaffetz on White House transparency: Trump is just like Obama

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), outgoing chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said there’s little difference between President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama when it comes to transparency. (2016 file photo/Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When it comes to transparency, outgoing House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) doesn’t see much difference between President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama.

Chaffetz, who announced in May that he would resign from Congress by the end of this month, bemoaned the White House’s transparency during an interview Sunday on “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.”

“The reality is, sadly, I don’t see much difference between the Trump administration and the Obama administration,” the lawmaker told Attkisson. “I thought there would be this — these floodgates would open up with all the documents we wanted from the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Pentagon.”

Chaffetz surprised many with his spur-of-the-moment decision to step down from his post on Capitol Hill. He abruptly announced last month that it was time for him and his wife “to move on from this part of our life.”

The Utah congressman’s comments about transparency came after Attkisson pressed Chaffetz on his decision to leave Congress when, ideally, stonewalling shouldn’t be an issue because the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Nevertheless, Chaffetz said gaining access to anything under Trump has been “terribly frustrating,” particularly with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he described as “worse” than Loretta Lynch, Obama’s attorney general.

“In many ways, it’s almost worse because we’re getting nothing, and that’s terribly frustrating and, with all due respect, the attorney general has not changed at all,” he explained. “I find him to be worse than what I saw with Loretta Lynch in terms of releasing documents and making things available. I just — that’s my experience, and that’s not what I expected.”

Sessions, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process, rejected any claim that he has been stonewalling questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Chaffetz, though, told a different story. He said the Oversight Committee has struggled to gain information from federal agencies on investigations into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server at the State Department, the Internal Revenue Service’s alleged targeting of conservative groups, and the ATF’s gun-walking scandal.

“We have been in court trying to pry those documents out of the Department of Justice and still to this day, they will not give us those documents,” he said. “And at the State Department — nothing. Stone-cold silence.”

Chaffetz also used the interview to take a jab at his fellow Republicans, many of whom he suggested are not fully executing their oversight duties.

“The reality is,” he said, “there aren’t very many people that want to play offense. There aren’t that many who say, ‘Look we have a duty and an obligation to fulfill the oversight responsibility that was put in place at the very founding of our country.’”

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