5:03 PM ET Thu, 16 Oct 2018 08:03:00 The Republican Party is in the middle of an unprecedented political battle with its Democratic counterpart, with some members of Congress demanding answers about why some GOP lawmakers and surrogates have spent more time attacking President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than focusing on the president and her campaign.
On Wednesday, the GOP’s leading congressional representative, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and Democratic Representative Jared Polis released a joint letter calling for the Justice Department to investigate whether Republican lawmakers and Trump surrogates are colluding with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a way that benefits the Clintons and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Chaffetz and Polis are among the top 10 Republican members of the House.
“As you know, the House Ethics Committee will review any and all potential violations of House rules and regulations related to this matter and the House will act as soon as possible,” they wrote.
“If you or your staff have information about any such violation, please let us know.”
Chaffetz is the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Poli is the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The letter was signed by House Republicans Steve Chabot, Trey Gowdy, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Salmon, John Mica, Trent Franks, Raul Labrador, Rob Wittman, Michael Burgess, Dave Reichert, and Pete Olson.
The signatories said they would work with the Ethics Committee “to investigate any and every potential violation of House Rule 5(e) and Rules 5(a) to determine whether any wrongdoing occurred and to take any necessary disciplinary action.”
The Democrats, meanwhile, have called on the Trump administration to investigate the House Republicans’ letter and “do everything we can to make sure the American people know what was going on.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., called on Trump to resign, tweeting that “these are serious charges, and these should be investigated immediately and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the White House released a statement saying that Trump “has not engaged in any conduct that could be characterized as inappropriate or in violation of the Hatch Act.”
“The White House is aware of the letter, which was issued by Chaffetz’s office, and is actively investigating the matter,” the statement read.
The Hatch Act was created by the 1950s and allows for certain types of government employees and contractors to lobby the White Houses, Congress, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies for “any benefit.”
The law applies to all government employees, not just political appointees.
Chaffet said in the letter that his office has already conducted “a review” of his office’s compliance with the law.
“The Office of Government Ethics is conducting a review of the Trump Office of Public Liaison’s response to a Hatch Act violation,” Chaffetz wrote.
In the letter to Chaffetz that was released Wednesday, he and Poliz added that they would also “be open to the possibility that we should conduct further investigation of this matter.”
“If, however, there is a significant and credible indication that such conduct was committed by one of your staff members or senior aides, then we will take the necessary steps to ensure that this type of conduct is never again tolerated,” the letter said.
Chaffets office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from POLITICO.
On Thursday, Chaffetz called for an independent investigation into the Hatch act violations.
“I believe it is imperative that the public be informed of the allegations,” Chaffetts office said in a statement.
“While I do not believe the Hatch acts violated the Hatch laws, I strongly believe that the office of the President of the United States is not above the law, and that they should be held to account.”
Chaffetts letter was released shortly after a New York Times report on an ethics complaint filed by Trump campaign officials against Rep. Keith Ellison, D–Minn.
The complaint alleges that Ellison improperly sought a meeting with the president during his reelection campaign in 2015, and the committee is also investigating whether the congressman violated ethics rules by meeting with Clinton in June 2017.
Ellison has denied any wrongdoing.
Chaffetts spokesman, John Taylor, said the congressmen’s letter “appears to be an attempt to distract from the fact that the House Judiciary Committee is also looking into the potential Hatch Act violations committed by Trump’s campaign.”
“Given the number of other matters that have been brought to the attention of the Committee and the President himself, we feel that the only appropriate response is to take swift action to address them,” Taylor said.
“This is another attempt by members of their own party to distract the public from what is really a matter of serious concern.”
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Polis said Chaffetz should resign over the Hatch bill, and called on “all of the elected Republicans in Congress to call for a special committee to investigate these allegations, and to ensure accountability