Trey Gowdy is the 10th Republican chair to retire abruptly from the House since Trump’s election

Gowdy speaks at an NRA convention in 2016.
Gowdy speaks at an NRA convention in 2016.
Image: Reuters/Aaron Bernstein
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Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who is best known for leading the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s oversight of the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, said unexpectedly today (Jan. 31) he would retire at the end of his term in November, rather than stand for reelection.

Gowdy was on his fourth term as a member of Congress. He is the chairman of the influential House Oversight Committee, and has been involved in the Republican party’s pushback on the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The House Intelligence Committee was expected to release a memo today written with Gowdy’s help that purported to show wrongdoing by members of the FBI investigating Trump’s campaign. In an unusual statement, the FBI said today the memo had “material omissions of fact” that gave it “grave concerns.”

Former government employees, including Republican aides in Congress, have criticized the oversight committee’s handling of the recent retirement of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.

Gowdy is the 36th Republican, and 10th committee chair, to retire from the House of Representatives rather than stand for mid-term elections this coming November. Some Democrats gleefully marked the occasion on Twitter:

To regain control of the House, Democrats need to regain 24 seats, which despite the departures isn’t guaranteed, as Quartz reported when another senior Republican retired earlier this week:

Despite the prevailing political mood favoring them, few political prognosticators currently expect Democrats to win the chamber. The current rankings from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and the Cook Political Report expect that Republicans will maintain a bare majority in the House.

Gowdy won his district in the 2016 election with 67% of the vote over the Democratic challenger.  In a statement, Gowdy, a former prosecutor, said he looked forward to returning to the “justice system,” where he feels better suited. “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,” he wrote. There is an opening for a judge on the judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees South Carolina, the Charlotte Observer notes.