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The House Oversight Committee, under new Republican leadership, has announced its first hearing to look into the management of pandemic relief funding. The committee's new chairman, Kentucky Republican James Comer, says his passion is tackling waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars in the federal government. He joined Geoff Bennett to discuss the issues in the committee's crosshairs.
The House Oversight Committee under new Republican leadership has announced its first hearing set for next month on mismanagement of pandemic relief funding.
The committee's new chairman, Kentucky Republican James Comer, says his passion is tackling waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars in the federal government. The panel's other priorities include investigating the Biden administration's immigration policies, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the business dealings of Biden family members.
I spoke with Congressman Comer earlier today, starting with the issue currently in the Oversight Committee's crosshairs, the discovery of classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Rep. James Comer (R-KY):
Thanks for having me.
Your committee is zeroing in on the classified documents discovered at President Biden's private residence and his private office.
What questions do you want answered?
Rep. James Comer:
We'd like to know who had access to those documents, how those documents ended up in multiple locations, and who all was responsible for notifying the National Archives that these documents were in the possession of Joe Biden, and why did it take so long for us to learn that these documents had been recovered?
We don't believe that we would ever know, were it not for investigative reporting by CBS. So, we have a lot of questions about the document, in addition to the fact that we'd like to know what type of documents were in possession of President Biden.
The president initially said that he was surprised to learn about the discovery of these documents. Do you believe him?
Yes, I'm sure.
That should be of more concern to the American people that he didn't know he had them, because it's hard for me to believe that, when they were moving Joe Biden out of the vice president's office, that they said, OK, we're going to take one set of document to the Biden Center for Diplomacy, and we're going to fit the other box — box of documents in the garage at the president's house in Delaware.
Now, you would believe that there's a possibility that somebody at some point moved the documents from one location to another. So that's why we need to know who all was in the proximity of the classified documents and who, in fact, first discovered the documents and what that process was.
And why didn't the White House immediately tell the American people that they had made a mistake and had improperly stored classified documents, considering the fact that the president made a very big deal out of it when President Trump did the same thing?
Well, let me ask you about that, because you have said that your biggest concern isn't the classified documents, but how there's such a discrepancy in how former President Trump was treated.
How can the American people view your investigation as credible when you openly admit that you're not as concerned about the underlying issue?
The underlying issue is not being understood by the national media.
The underlying issue is, we're conducting a very thorough and substantive investigation of the Biden family for influence peddling. There's no question the Bidens have received millions of dollars from our adversaries in China and Russia, as well as from some shady characters in Ukraine.
Now, why are they sending so much money to the Bidens? Obviously, they want a return on their investment. So, when we learn that there are documents that have been strewn all over the place, and that people like Hunter Biden and the president's two brothers had access to those documents, and they're under investigation for influence peddling, then that's a concern, because we wonder whether or not this administration is compromised because of the millions of dollars the Biden family has received from our adversaries around the world.
You're connecting a lot of dots there.
What evidence do you have to back up those assertions?
It's not hard to connect the dots here that there's been a lot of money wired into the various Biden interests from our adversaries around the world.
And we're concerned that they're doing this not out of charity, but because they want to get something in return. When we find out that there are documents that have been mishandled at the — at the Biden residence, where the president's brothers and son spend a lot of time, then we're concerned.
Will you subpoena White House officials or the president himself as part of this investigation?
It's very complicated to subpoena a sitting president of the United States. So the odds of that happening are slim to none.
We will have questions at the end of our investigation, I'm sure, for the president, before we issue a report, to give him an opportunity to challenge any of the assumptions from our final investigation, because we want to be fair and balanced here. So, the president will have an opportunity to defend himself.
I don't think it'll be under subpoena or under oath in front of the House Oversight Committee.
Have congressional subpoenas been undermined by the fact that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and at least a couple of members of the House Oversight Committee, Republican members, have defied subpoenas from the January 6 Committee looking into the attack on the U.S. Capitol?
I think the subpoenas have been undermined by the fact that the Democrats issued too many.
I mean, the Democrats were sending subpoenas out to Trump officials like junk mail. And the more subpoenas you issue, the less value they have. And I think that the whole credibility of congressional oversight has been undermined because of people like Adam Schiff and because of high-profile investigations from both parties in the past that never really amounted anything.
So I recognize the fact that congressional investigations don't have the credibility that they should. And it's going to be my job to try to have a credible investigation based on facts that is fair and balanced. And in the end, hopefully, there will be things accomplished.
Taking your point about credibility, your committee includes a number of Republican hard-liners who have denied the election results of 2020, who have openly floated conspiracy theories. At least two of them have associated with white supremacists.
Why should any member of Congress with that track record have a role on your committee, a key committee that has the responsibility of ensuring accountability across the entire federal government?
Both sides of the aisle on the Oversight Committee have what you would call firebrands.
Remember, they have the majority of the Squad over there. You have to Tlaib, who has said antisemitic statements. You have Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Bush who have said things that I would consider anti-American.
So, both sides of the aisle have members of Congress that aren't in the mainstream, so to speak. But I'm confident that the people on my committee are there for the right reason. They're duly elected. They wanted to be on the Oversight Committee. They fought hard to get on the Oversight Committee. This is the committee that was in more demand than any committee in the House of Representatives.
So I'm honored to have the people that the Steering Committee chose to put on my committee. I will say this. Anything that ends up on Oversight Committee stationary is going to be factual. We will look into a lot of things. I'm sure there's going to be things that people on both sides of the aisle say that may or not be 100 percent in line with reality sometimes.
But, at the end of the day, when we publish a report, and when our work is done with respect to certain investigations, then I think you're going to see that 100 percent of what's going to be that report is going to be factual and verifiable.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, sir, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.
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Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
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