Jason Chaffetz Accuses DHS Counsel of Witness Intimidation

April 19, 2016

During a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) said that he believed that Jonathan E. Meyer, the deputy general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, had overseen the intimidation of a witness who had talked to the committee.

"When the committee attorneys asked the witness whether they had been discouraged from speaking with the committee, both the agency and the department attorney repeatedly refused to allow the witness to answer the question, even going so far as to interrupt when the witness appeared willing to answer. How does the department justify this?"

"As I told Mr. Mica, the questions were requesting him to discuss what attorneys advised him. That's subject to the attorney-client privilege, so our attorneys asked him not to respond and suggested that we discuss it in a different setting and try to get the Committee the information they want," Meyer said.

This did not satisfy Chaffetz.

"In this case, there is not a compelling reason to recognize the privilege. Further, I would go on to say, I believe you're intimidating somebody," Chaffetz said. "I believe it's intimidating to have attorneys saying, ‘Don't answer that question.’"

After further questioning Meyer, Chaffetz repeated his claim.

"We will further explore this, but I think you're intimidating the witness, I think you're providing counsel that is inconsistent with the law, and I think as such, anybody who is providing that information should have their pay duly docked, and the government should recover that."

After ranking member Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) briefly asked Meyer about witness intimidation, which Meyer further denied, Chaffetz again knocked Meyer over the case.

"I wasn't in the room, but what I've been told by staff is he was willing to answer the question, he started to answer the question, when counsel jumped in and insisted that he not answer the question, that's what I have a problem with," Chaffetz said.