Hundreds of people shouted down Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) at a town hall he held in his home district on Thursday night, with many yelling “Do your job!” at the chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Chaffetz has come under fire for taking few actions against either Donald Trump’s international business empire and the potential conflicts of interest it creates, or pushing Trump to release his tax returns. As the chair of the committee tasked with investigating “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the federal government, Chaffetz is perhaps the government official with the most power to check Trump’s unprecedented potential to leverage the White House for private gain.
But so far, Chaffetz has issued no subpoenas, called for no hearings, and scheduled no meetings to investigate Trump's potential abuse of the office. (He has asked the General Services Administration for documents related to Trump’s hotel in DC, and on Thursday called Kellyanne Conway “wrong, wrong, wrong” for publicly endorsing Ivanka Trump’s label.) Critics have pointed out that Chaffetz was relentless in his investigation of the executive branch during President Barack Obama’s administration, particularly over Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi scandal.
It looks like the more than 1,000 people who showed up at the Brighton High School Thursday night want him to do more. Videos show attendees demanding Chaffetz explain his “line in the sand” for Trump and loudly booing Chaffetz for saying he doesn’t believe Trump should release his tax returns:
At rowdy town hall, ex-teacher asks Chaffetz — chair of House oversight — “what’s your line in the sand” for Trump? pic.twitter.com/8U7IkpZtsS— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) February 10, 2017
Crowd at Chaffetz event screaming "Let them in!" at the fire marshall, who has capped capacity despite some open seats and hundreds outside. pic.twitter.com/UcZpcE153G— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) February 10, 2017
The town hall was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but by 5:15 p.m., people were already lined up around the building — many of them holding signs asking when Chaffetz will investigate the President Donald Trump's tax returns, or questioning the president's immigration policies.
When the doors opened at 6 p.m., the auditorium quickly filled nearly to its capacity of 1,080.
Chaffetz was met with a round of booing from a rowdy crowd who also shouted down the fire marshal who informed the crowd that no more people would be let in to fill the few remaining seats in the back row.
Multiple groups dissatisfied with Chaffetz's previous answers on issues like investigating Trump's possible conflicts of interests, the congressman's handling of public lands and his stance on abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, had mobilized people on Facebook beforehand.
As recently as two weeks ago, Chaffetz was still maintaining that he wasn’t going to investigate Trump’s business conflicts. In an interview after one meeting of the oversight committee, he said he was “not interested in engaging in fishing expeditions” over Trump.
“I’ll remind people that I never did a quote-unquote ‘investigation’ of Barack Obama when he was president," Chaffetz told me. "I am personally not diving into the individual roles of the family members. I haven’t done that with President Obama, and I have not done that with Donald Trump."
We’ll have to wait to see how much Chaffetz sticks to that position after Thursday night’s raucous demonstration showed that many in his home district are demanding a more thorough investigation.