GREENVILLE, S.C.—At a Republican Party fundraising breakfast in his district on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy suggested that the congressional GOP needed to investigate the IRS's scrutiny of political groups with the same intensity that it was investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi.
"I'm glad that the speaker of the House convened a select committee on Benghazi," said Gowdy, a former prosecutor who chairs that panel. "I think it makes every bit as much sense to convene a select committee on the IRS. Now that we have the Senate, the Senate has tools the House doesn't have in terms of getting e-mails and cooperation. It has nothing to do with politics. Do you really want an IRS targeting you based on your political beliefs?"
The congressman, flanked by colleagues Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan, took most of the questions at the $25-per-head voter briefing. Mulvaney encouraged fellow Republicans to win the moral argument about immigration reform, instead of allowing the issue to be frozen and polarized. "If you hear us talking 10 percent about the Constitution and 90 percent about something else, that's why," he said. Gowdy described the ways that Democrats had undermined his committee—mostly by portraying it as heartlessly partisan.
"Fast and Furious has gone [from the headlines] only because that's the playbook for this administration, which is deny access to documents," said Gowdy. "It's the playbook on Solyndra; it's the playbook on the IRS. What happened to Lois Lerner's emails? They were destroyed, and then, talismanically, we found them again!"
In an interview after the breakfast, Gowdy said that he'd mentioned the idea of a select committee on the IRS to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and that Ohio Representative Jim Jordan would be an ideal candidate to run it. The investigations of 2013 and 2014, often chaired by then-Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (now retired), had gotten out some of the truth. But the newly empowered GOP could force the executive branch to release documents that it insisted on concealing.
"The same reasons for a select committee exist there, or maybe even greater," he said. "There's this tendency to over-claim executive privilege. Look, Eric Holder is a smart lawyer. He knows the e-mails that he sends to his wife are not protected by executive privilege. But he didn't want to give us one of them because in it, he referred to us as 'asses.' Look—we know we're asses. You don't have to worry about hurting our feelings. That's not the first time any of us have heard that. So why not give us the documents?"
Asked whether Speaker John Boehner had given any thought to convening such a committee on the IRS issue, spokesman Michael Steel said in an e-mail, “We haven't heard many calls for that—likely since there are fewer jurisdictional issues, since Ways and Means is the sole primary committee.”
In his speech and afterward, Gowdy also said that his Benghazi committee had yet to call up to 30 State Department witnesses and up to 50 total witnesses that could be brought in over the next few months. Among the possibilities: Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice.