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Virginia Republican in Congress accused of using staff as “personal servants”

It’s been a bizarre week for Republican Rep. Tom Garrett.

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Rep. Tom Garrett Jr. (R-VA), left, shakes hands with House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in 2017.
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Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett treated aides in his office like “personal servants,” according to a report from Politico that details the lawmaker’s use of staffers to complete daily chores ranging from chauffeuring his daughters to cleaning up after his dog.

The story comes following a turmoil-filled week for the freshman Republican Congress member, whose chief of staff Jimmy Keady abruptly left on Tuesday evening, kicking off a bizarre back-and-forth about whether Garrett planned to run for reelection.

According to Politico’s Rachael Bade, Alex Isenstadt, and Kyle Cheney, aides in Garrett’s office — which has an abnormally high turnover rate relative to the House average — have called it a toxic place to work and say that they’ve been dispatched on numerous occasions to handle rote tasks like grab clothing for Garrett if he forgets items at home, and in one instance, to help his wife, Flanna, unload groceries.

Flanna was reportedly omnipresent at the office, frequently demanding help for personal errands and reaching out at odd hours, staffers note. They even had to clean up after the couple’s dog, Sophie:

Aides also grew acquainted with the couple’s dog, who often came to the office with the Garretts. Staffers were expected to watch the dog during office hours, and one aide did so over a weekend. Several aides said the couple would sometimes seem to forget the dog was in the office. When that happened, at the end of the day, aides were responsible for transporting it back to Garrett’s Washington apartment.

One source said the dog occasionally defecated on the floor and aides had to clean up the mess.

“We see no reason to respond to anonymous, unfounded allegations primarily targeting Congressman Garrett’s wife, made by Politico’s ‘unnamed’ sources,” Garrett spokesperson Matt Missen said in response to the article. “It is easy to spread untruths and even easier to exaggerate and imply wrongdoing when none exists.”

These revelations cap off a strange week for the lawmaker, who at one point reportedly signaled that he might not be pursuing reelection in November, then quickly reversed course a day later. “There is no way in heck that I’m not going to be back here in 2019 as a member of the Congress representing the Fifth District of Virginia. Too darn much is at stake,” he said on Thursday.

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