- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covers international finance. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, has has long been the loudest critic of the White House for its failure to forestall the 2012 attack in Libya which left four Americans dead. Now, as GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump falls in the polls and threatens to become downright toxic for down-ballot candidates, the congressman is trying to cozy up to President Barack Obama. The commander in chief isn’t having it, and the war of words is on.
The spat began when Issa, who led the House inquiry into the deadly 2012 siege as former House Oversight Committee chairman — an investigation which ultimately found no wrongdoing on the part of the State Department or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — sent out a campaign mailer touting his cooperation with the White House and featuring a photo of Obama in the Oval Office. Given that Issa has been a thorn in his side for years, the president took issue with the ad, and hit back at the lawmaker at a California fundraiser for his opponent, Doug Applegate, Sunday. A picture of the mailer is below.
— (((em))) (@controlpremium) October 16, 2016
Obama said Issa’s “primary contribution to the U.S. Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped up investigations that have led nowhere.”
“This is now a guy who because Trump’s poll numbers are bad has sent of brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me,” the president added. “That is the definition of chutzpah. Here’s a guy who called my administration perhaps the most corrupt in history.”
He continued: “That starts in House of Representatives. The things you’re hearing Trump say, they’re said on floor of the House all the time. The Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives are repeatedly promoting crazy conspiracy theories and demonizing opponents.”
On Monday, in an emailed statement to CNN, Issa forcefully responded to the president.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised that the president, in a political speech, continues to deny accountability for the serious scandals that happened under his watch where Americans died overseas and veterans have died here at home,” Issa said. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks I’ve done too much to hold Washington accountable. I’ve worked with the administration on good legislation where it was possible, and called out wrongdoing wherever I saw it, and will continue to do so.”
Issa has been investigating Obama for one thing or another since 2010. He’s poked around administration loans for clean-energy firms, like Solyndra. He’s dug into the gun-running scandal that engulfed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And he’s relentlessly investigated the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
His attempt now to cash in politically on Obama, who just happens to have very high approval ratings — 54 percent, the highest it has been since just after his reelection — as he leaves office, is simply another sign of how radically Donald Trump has turned the political world on its head.
Photo credit: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/Getty Images