During a Republican conference meeting Tuesday morning, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) tried to quell concerns within the conference that his staff had assisted President Donald Trump’s administration with drafting an executive order on immigration that even Republican leaders did not know was coming.
Members and staff in the meeting said afterward that Goodlatte walked through the process and explained that he had had staff who served on the transition team when Trump became the nominee.
On Tuesday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee released a statement praising the work of the staffers.
“My staff on the House Judiciary Committee are some of the best on Capitol Hill. They are experts in their respective fields and I proudly allowed them to provide their expertise to the Trump transition team on immigration law,” Goodlatte said. “To be clear, while they gave advice to the new Administration, they did not have decision making authority on the policy. The final decision was made at the highest levels of the Trump Administration, and I support the President’s executive order.”
Goodlatte’s knowledge that his staff was involved opens up questions of whether the Chairman himself was aware of what was coming even as Republican leaders were in the dark. During his press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried to downplay what occurred.
“Congressional staffers help the administration all the time. I’ll refer you to the Judiciary Committee on the specific aspects of this,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said.
Goodlatte characterized it as his staff being “on loan” in the Tuesday morning meetings.
There are still major questions looming about Goodlatte’s staff’s involvement in the executive order. For example, did Goodlatte’s staff sign nondisclosure agreements to work with Trump’s transition, which would have barred staffers from discussing their work with their boss or congressional leadership, as has been reported.