Former GOP Rep. Darrell Issa on Thursday accused Sen. Robert Menendez of trying to smear him to sink his nomination to be the next director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Menendez told Issa he had significant concerns about the California congressman’s FBI background file and warned members could find the information “potentially disqualifying for Senate confirmation.”
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But Issa fired back in an interview after the hearing and claimed Menendez was trying to relitigate wrongdoing from when the congressman was a teenager.
“Sen. Menendez in open hearing refused to settle for asking me questions from that briefing … and in fact was alleging that I was not qualified because of things that he saw in my record from when I was 17 years old,” Issa said.
He added that the information Menendez is referring to is not new, and available on his Wikipedia page. News outlets reported that the issue had to do with a fake ID Issa once used.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Menendez pointed to the senator’s comments at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Menendez, at the hearing, said every member on the committee should be able to review the information in Issa’s background file.
“I openly admit that I had a colorful youth, but Sen. Menendez is trying to convince people that a 65-year-old man sitting there after 18 years in Congress … isn’t qualified because he’s not trustworthy,” Issa said.
Issa, who retired from Congress this year, is reportedly considering a run against Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who is facing federal public corruption charges. When asked why he was pursuing the administration role if he planned to challenge Hunter, Issa replied: “I want to serve my country.”
“I left Congress because I was offered an opportunity to serve in the administration,” he said. “If that’s not going to happen, I’m going to seek and find a way to serve my country.”
When asked whether he would withdraw, Issa said that he had no announcement to make, but “stay tuned.”
“I don’t have any announcements today but I’m going to seek counsel with all of my friends at the White House and back home,” he said. “And we’ll move forward next week.”