It’s been a few days since Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the newly minted chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, got the star treatment from “60 Minutes” — and still the untruths he uncorked have gone unchallenged.
The first unchallenged inaccuracy was the chairman’s announcement that he has the power to investigate anything. This is factually incorrect. Congress can only pursue information necessary to inform its legislative duties. Not once did Cummings mention any contemplated legislation. Voters elect legislators, not opposition researchers or public relations operatives.
Another untruth: Cummings gloated that he didn’t need to consult with Republicans before issuing subpoenas. Unless he plans to significantly change committee rules, however, consultation remains a requirement before dragging officials in for depositions. In fact, Cummings previously advocated for more than consultation and demanded that consent from the minority party be a requirement before issuing a subpoena. It would behoove Cummings to get his own story straight before he challenges others.
The chairman complained that he received zero documents from the Trump administration when he was the committee's ranking member. I personally know this isn’t true: While working at the Department of Homeland Security, I processed several responses to letters with Cummings' name on the signature line.
Most problematically, Cummings declared, without any evidence, the explosive charge that President Trump, who donates his salary, has made “a lot of money” on the job. This unfounded allegation by a 13-term congressman who has himself increased his net worth five-fold while in Congress went without any pushback. The fact that he plans on launching an investigation to prove something he already declares true also went unnoticed and unchallenged.
Finally, Cummings should be asked to square his previous positions in defense of the Obama administration from Republican investigations with his newfound positions. He was not shy to call Republican efforts “witch hunts” or “fishing expeditions” as he gave the Obama administration a free pass. For every forthcoming Cummings quote as chairman, there is surely an equal and opposite quote from his time as ranking member.
Credible reporting requires that the media challenge Cummings when he presents such untruths. They should simply ask Cummings what has changed besides the president. Because even those who purport to be last line of accountability should be held accountable themselves.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner