A vote on Darrell Issa’s bid to head Trump’s U.S. Trade and Development Commission has been postponed until the White House makes the former San Diego Republican congressman’s FBI file available to the entire Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, committee chair Jim Risch (R-Idaho) announced yesterday. “We’re going to get this file open,” Risch said.
It’s unknown what part of Issa’s FBI file is troubling some committee members. Ranking Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey said only, “There’s information in his FBI background investigation that concerns me greatly, and that I believe members may find problematic, and potentially disqualifying for Senate confirmation.”
Other committee members have said that they don’t want to hold a vote until they can get a look at the file for themselves.
Issa blew off any concerns, saying the questions come from his time as an Army private more than 50 years ago, during which he received a bad conduct rating, was demoted, and was accused of stealing another soldier’s car.
Issa, who served in Congress from 2001 to 2019 (he decided not to run for reelection in 2018 when it was clear his district in northern San Diego County was going Democrat), said, “There is nothing that [Menendez] alleged that isn’t in my Wikipedia. I have owned up to being a 17-year-old kid and not a very good private.”
“If they were all public,” Menendez said, “then we wouldn’t be having the difficulty that we have.”
So what else could be in Issa’s file?
Last summer, he stood alongside Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and a handful of fellow Republicans who backed Trump when Trump said at a press conference with Vladimir Putin that he saw no evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. Issa, then the richest member of congress, called the FBI “untrustworthy” at the time.
A 1998 L.A. Times story, republished upon Issa’s retirement, details several “ugly chapters” from the businessman-politician’s past.
He reportedly once walked into the office of an executive he’d been tasked with removing, showed him a handgun, and told the man (who was embroiled in a telemarketing scheme years later) that he’d gotten an education in explosives and firearms while in the military. Issa confirmed that he had wanted to remove the man from his post but said, “I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”
In another of Issa’s corporate adventures, in 1982 one of his company’s plants burned down weeks after he and his partner has upped the fire insurance. Arson investigators deemed the fire suspicious, reporting that “it seemed a flammable substance had been scattered in the only part of the building that wasn’t covered by fire suppressant systems.” No one was ever charged in the blaze, and Issa sued his insurance company when it contested the claim.
If Issa’s confirmation dreams are dashed, his backup plan is to challenge embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter for his seat in Issa’s neighboring district in Alpine. Hunter is awaiting trial for allegedly spending hundreds of thousands in campaign funds on flights, vacations, and private school tuition. Hunter maintains his innocence, even though his wife, Brenda, pled guilty to similar charges in June.
Asked what he though of Issa’s plan to unseat him, Hunter shrugged, saying, “Politics.”
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