Issa first represented California’s 48th and, later, 49th congressional districts in the House for 18 years before announcing in 2018 that he was leaving Congress and was “happily looking forward to doing other things.”
Issa, a vocal ally of President Trump, is perhaps best known from his tenure early last decade chairing the House Oversight Committee. His investigations included the first review of the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya, and the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking scandal in Arizona, which concluded with the House Republican majority voting to hold then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
Issa, who nearly lost in 2016, announced his retirement ahead of a 2018 election in which Democrats swept his seat in the 49th district and others in California, fueling the Democratic takeover of the House. Rep. Mike Levin (D) won reelection Tuesday to that seat.
Issa is not the only former congressman heading back to Capitol Hill. Republican Pete Sessions, who lost Texas’s 32nd Congressional District to Rep. Colin Allred (D) in 2018, found friendlier GOP territory and won the open seat in the Waco-based 17th Congressional District.
After Issa announced his retirement from Congress, Trump nominated him in September 2018 to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee abruptly postponed his confirmation hearing the following year over an issue in his FBI background check.
Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the panel, raised concerns at the time about an FBI background check conducted on Issa that, he said, might be “problematic and potentially disqualifying for Senate confirmation.” He did not reveal the nature of the issue, and other committee members who had not seen the FBI report said they, too, wanted time to review the issue.
Issa was once one of the richest men in Congress, with an estimated net worth of $280 million in 2018, and he invested millions of his own dollars into his House comeback bid this year.
Last week, he tweeted a message of support for Trump in which he echoed the president’s false claim that observers were not being allowed to watch the ballot count in key states.
“President Trump — I stand with you, just as you have stood with me from 2016 until today,” Issa said in the tweet. “The fact that poll watchers are not being allowed to adequately supervise certain recounts is completely unacceptable. This is America. Election integrity comes first.”
Issa has long led a colorful personal life.
He was accused of auto theft early in his life, along with his brother, and the charges were dropped. Issa went on to found the Viper car alarms, making a fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions.
In 2018, his onetime close friend, Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio), served deposition papers on Issa demanding he testify in his divorce proceedings. Issa, who was a groomsman in the wedding, did not have to testify when Turner and his wife privately resolved their divorce.
Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis in Washington and Roxana Popescu in San Diego contributed to this report.