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GOP Lawmaker Requested 'Sensitive' Email Audit Of His Own Staff

Jun 1, 2018

On Monday, freshman Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., announced he will not seek re-election. On Wednesday, he requested an investigation into his own congressional staff.

"This is (a) SENSITIVE request on behalf of the member who would like to audit several employees," reads an official IT incident receipt that was reviewed by NPR.

The IT receipt was provided by a congressional source who requested anonymity in order to share an internal U.S. House of Representatives document. The request was reported on Wednesday morning through a technology support office run by the chief administrative officer of the House. "Tom Garrett" is identified by name on the document as the office making the request.

The request is listed as "resolved"; however, the ticket does not give any indication as to how it was resolved, which staffers were targeted for audit, or what specific information the congressman was seeking.

Garrett's congressional office was closed on Friday and phone calls went straight to voicemail. When reached by NPR late Friday, Garrett spokesman Matt Missen declined to comment.

The request comes during a tumultuous time for Garrett, professionally and personally. Last Tuesday, his chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, abruptly quit. Last Wednesday Politico reported that Garrett was mulling over retirement. The next day he held a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce he would run again.

Last Friday, Politico then published a critical account of how Garrett and his wife made extensive personal demands of his official staff, including running personal errands and caring for their children and their dog. The story relied on four anonymous sources identified only as "four former staffers."

This Monday, Garrett reversed course and announced he would not seek re-election this year and disclosed he is struggling with alcoholism.

"The recent attacks on my family are a series of half-truths and whole lies," he said. "But there's one area where I haven't been honest. The tragedy is that any person — Republican, Democrat or independent — who's known me for period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic."

The IT request to audit unidentified aides was made two days later.

The congressional source said Garrett's request was legal, but unusual. Lawmakers do not regularly request IT audits of their own employees, although the source said there is nothing that prevents a lawmaker from making such a request.

All members of Congress have significant autonomy to run their offices as they see fit, within an allotted budget — known as a Members' Representational Allowance — and within the scope of House rules. As the head of the office, a lawmaker is allowed to request access or a review of an employee's email. Most lawmakers, including Garrett, hire outside vendors to oversee their offices' IT needs. In this case, the IT document shows that the vendor contacted the official House IT office to seek guidance on how to process Garrett's request.

According to The Roanoke Times, Virginia Republicans plan to meet Saturday to pick Garrett's replacement for the November ballot. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Leslie Cockburn in the general election. President Trump carried the district by 11 percent in 2016, and Republicans are currently favored to hold the seat.

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