This is oddly timed given his status as the one and only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee — Devin Nunes included — who’s read the intelligence on which the Nunes memo is based.
I believe him when he says he’s itching to get back to the justice system, though. He’s always been a prosecutor at heart, which is why he keeps landing on committees like Oversight and the Benghazi commission. If you’ve ever caught him on old episodes of “Forensic Files” talking about murderers he’s put away in South Carolina, he so looks and sounds the part that it’s hard to believe he wanted to enter politics in the first place.
He’s a fan favorite on the right too. He’ll be missed.
There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system. Full statement here → pic.twitter.com/7I8AApqvs1
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) January 31, 2018
It’s a bolt from the blue, a complete shock to the entire GOP establishment — except that we’ve been warned before about Gowdy’s interest in leaving Congress, haven’t we? Remember what Rep. John Fleming said in 2015?
Fleming was wrong on the timing — Gowdy obviously didn’t retire in 2016 — but he seems to have been right on the substance. So what happens now? Gowdy goes back to SC and becomes a garden-variety D.A.? Or, given his close work with Nunes on the memo and his popularity on the right, is he suddenly a frontrunner to replace Jeff Sessions if and when POTUS finally boots his beleaguered AG out of office?
Again, my sense of Gowdy is that he wants to be where the action is, in the courtroom facing the jury, inveighing against the bad guys. Law and order, not politics. That’s not what the AG role would bring him. On the contrary, it’s an especially poor role for someone who’s sick of Washington BS. Trump’s DOJ is shaping up to be the most politicized in decades, with an AG Gowdy destined to have to navigate between a president and a department who fear and loathe each other. Who needs it?
Still. It’s a rare lawyer who, offered the job of Attorney General, would turn it down.
It seems to me the perfect job for him would be U.S. District Court judge. As an appellate judge or AG of South Carolina, he won’t see much, if anything, of actual trials. Only as a district court judge would he get the litigation exposure he seems to crave. He should have no problem receiving a nomination from Trump to be a federal judge in South Carolina and *probably* little difficulty in being confirmed on a party-line vote in the Senate. His problem is that, for the moment, there’s only one federal judicial vacancy in South Carolina and someone’s already been nominated to fill it. If another doesn’t open up soon, Gowdy could be facing a Democratic Senate for confirmation if and when one does. And Democrats might not be so forgiving of someone who helped lead the charge on Benghazi and the Nunes memo. Gulp.
By the way, in case you’re worried about Democrats flipping his seat this fall, his home district is very, very red. C’mon, it’s South Carolina.
Update: A fair point. If you’re thinking ahead to Paul Ryan’s likely retirement after the midterms, the bench of potential Speakers who might please the right is getting awfully thin:
First Hensarling, now Gowdy – ranks of righty fantasy speakers really thinning out
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) January 31, 2018
Update: Eeenteresting. Does this explain the timing of the announcement?
Gowdy says he "will be returning to the justice system." Worth noting: There's a vacancy on the 4th circuit court of appeals as of…yesterday. https://t.co/p0uBitDV4r
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) January 31, 2018
The Fourth Circuit includes South Carolina, but as I say, appellate judges don’t preside over trials and don’t interact with juries. Gowdy would be cloistered away in chambers crafting written opinions, emerging sporadically for short oral arguments. Doesn’t seem like a natural fit for him, but it’s another hard job to say no to.