Former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, now outside counsel to Trump, played key roles in House Benghazi and Russia investigations

CNN Politics 2 months ago
Rep. Trey Gowdy speaks on his impending retirement and discusses his frustration with the lack of facts and fairness in Congress.

Preparing for the battle ahead, the White House has retained former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy as outside counsel in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.

The White House had reached out to the former chief House investigator to help with the impeachment fight. On Tuesday, Gowdy met with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, another former lawmaker from South Carolina, at the White House.

A former federal prosecutor, Gowdy retired from Congress in January and returned to working in law in his home state. He's currently a partner at Nelson Mullins in Greenville, South Carolina, dealing with corporate and governmental compliance and investigations.

    Before life in Congress

    He clerked for the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the US District Court for the District of South Carolina.

    Gowdy went on to serve as the assistant US attorney for the District of South Carolina from 1994 to 2000.

    In the nine years after, he was the solicitor of the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Spartanburg County, during which he won several death penalty cases.

    Gowdy was elected to Congress in 2010, and he would serve four terms in the US House.

    Role in House Benghazi investigation

    Gowdy's congressional tenure was marked by central roles in high-profile investigations.

    The South Carolina Republican mostly famously led the House Select Committee on the events surrounding the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. The select committee was formed in May 2014.

    The House Benghazi investigation drew near constant headlines and included a focus on Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

    In the fall of 2015, Clinton appeared before the House Benghazi Committee for a daylong hearing. Clinton told lawmakers that she was aware of the dangers in Libya but that "there was no actionable intelligence" indicating a planned attack.

    The committee released its more than 800-page report in June 2016, as Clinton ran for president, capping its two-year investigation of the terrorist attack. Over the course of the probe, the committee had interviewed nearly 100 witnesses and spent about $7 million.

    The report faulted the Obama administration for lapses that led to the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi and suggested that Clinton did not adequately address the risks involved.

    The Obama administration initially claimed the attack was carried out by an angry mob responding to a video made in the US mocking Islam — but the assault was later determined to be a terrorist attack.

    Ahead of the majority's report, Democrats on the committee released their own dissenting report and accused Gowdy and Republicans of flagrant political bias. They also argued that the investigation had wasted taxpayer money to try to damage Clinton ahead of the 2016 election.

    The House Select Committee on Benghazi shut down on December 12, 2016.

    Role in Russia investigation

    In his final years in Congress, Gowdy played a key role in the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation.

    He was added to the panel in 2017 by his Republican colleagues as another voice who could wage partisan battles over the investigation into Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia, along with then-committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes' separate investigation into the Justice Department.

    Gowdy also took over as chairman of the House Oversight Committee that same year after Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz left Congress.

    In that role, Gowdy opened a joint investigation into decisions made by the Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election, including the FBI's handling of Clinton's email probe.

    But as Trump railed against special counsel Robert Mueller, Gowdy voiced his support for the special counsel, saying he did not think Mueller should step down.

    Gowdy also undercut Trump's claims that the FBI under Obama's administration had embedded an informant in his campaign to act as a spy.

    After receiving a briefing from the Justice Department on the confidential source, Gowdy emerged, saying that the FBI acted appropriately.

    When Nunes released a controversial GOP memo in February 2018 alleging FBI abuses of its surveillance authority, Gowdy said the memo does not have "any impact on the Russia probe," and even without the controversial dossier, there would be a Russia investigation.

    Gowdy also disagreed with the House Intelligence Committee Republicans' final report a month later that disputed the US intelligence community's assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to help Trump get elected.

    His decision to retire

    Gowdy announced in January 2018 that he would not be seeking reelection and would be leaving politics.

    "Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system," Gowdy said in a statement announcing his decision. "As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding."

      Though he did not face a difficult re-election campaign, Gowdy told CNN he's retiring from Congress because he misses the justice system and prefers working in an environment "where facts matter."

      "I like jobs where facts matter. I like jobs where fairness matters. I like jobs where, frankly, where the process matters. It's not just about winning and it's not just about reaching a result," Gowdy told CNN's Alisyn Camerota back in February 2018.

      CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Pamela Brown, Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.

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