Jason Chaffetz on leaving Congress: 'I may depart early'

Rep. Jason Chaffetz may not finish out his current term in Congress.

"I will continue to weigh the options, but I may depart early," Chaffetz, who chairs the House's powerful oversight committee, reportedly told Utah's KSL Newsradio host Doug Wright. "The state needs to figure out how this works."

After the Utah Republican announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018, he made the second jarring announcement via text message on Wednesday.

Chaffetz appeared on Wright's show on Wednesday. Wright asked Chaffetz whether he would leave Congress before his term was over via text after the recorded interview was over, Wright said Thursday on his show.

So what's keeping Chaffetz in office? It turns out there are no set procedures in Utah for how to replace a congressman who leaves mid-term. According to UtahPolicy.com, state law only says that in the event that a U.S. representative leaves office, the governor will issue a proclamation calling for a special election.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, gives an interview on the KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show" in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, AP)



Chaffetz says ‘absolutely’ no scandal is forcing him out

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz — who shocked the political establishment when he announced his retirement earlier this week — said that he has already started looking for post-congressional employment, and hopes to serve on boards of directors and link up with a television network.

“I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” Chaffetz said in a phone interview with POLITICO Thursday afternoon. “And I got a series of ‘Let us know when you’re serious.’ Well now I can say, ‘Can you tell I am serious?’… I’ll take a little bit of time to sort out. I’d be thrilled to have a television relationship. But there’s a number of things I’d like to do.”

Chaffetz, 50, is leaving a high-profile perch. He is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — the top investigatory body in the chamber. He was first elected to the House in 2008, and signaled to reporters that he would stay in Washington until he reached his term limit atop the committee.

But a series of strange events unfolded over the past few days. He first announced in a Facebook post that he wouldn’t run for any office in 2018, and now, he is saying that he might leave Congress in the next couple of months.

“I might depart early,” he said in the interview. “It’s not tomorrow, it’s not next week. If it is, it’s going to be in the months to come.”

Asked if he is resigning because of a yet-to-be revealed scandal, Chaffetz said, “Absolutely, positively not.

“Not in any way shape or form,” he said. “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine. From the Secret Service to the Democratic Party. I am who I am. If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

But Chaffetz said his political career might not be over. The governor’s mansion in Salt Lake City opens up in 2020, and Chaffetz’s political team has begun snapping up URLs associated with potential future runs.

“I’m preventing the cybersquatters and I’ve also said that potentially I might get back into politics at a later date,” he said. “I want to keep those doors open. I’m not closing any potential future run.”

For now, he said he’s taking things as they come.

“I don’t know exactly where these winds are going to take me,” he said. “I just know that I wanted to explore those. And by making the announcement early, it helps on several fronts. I can pursue those opportunities and see what is out there. And also gives potential candidates for my seat time to gear up in terms of money, policy and building a grassroots organization. And I’m just being candid with people.”

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