It’s been a wild couple of days for Rep. Trey Gowdy.
The three-term South Carolina Republican went from a candidate for majority leader amid the House Republican Conference’s leadership shakeup, to retiring in 2016 to denying that he’s got any plans besides continuing to serve in his current role — all within a roughly 24-hour period.
The drama began Tuesday morning, when freshmen Reps. Mia Love of Utah and Lee Zeldin of New York came out to say they’d support Gowdy for majority leader if he were to run.
But Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Gowdy’s fellow South Carolinian and self-described “best friend,” shot down those rumors.
Then Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, another supporter of the Gowdy as majority leader effort, tried to drum up a groundswell.
“Trey Gowdy is not the kind of person who is gonna go out and overtly campaign for it,” Chaffetz told reporters. “But if the conference rallies behind him, I think he would reluctantly serve, and I and a lot of others believe that he would do the best job of uniting the conference and making the case to the American people.”
While he didn’t allude to any friendship between himself and Gowdy, Chaffetz insisted he had spoken to Gowdy “as recently a few minutes ago.”
Then Wednesday morning, fellow GOP Rep. John Fleming, R-La.,
Gowdy did not plan to run for re-election.
“Trey wants to go back to South Carolina, and God bless him for that,” Fleming said.
A Gowdy aide denied Fleming’s account shortly after it caught fire on Twitter.
“He has not made any announcement about 2016,” Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Duvall said in an email — a statement that neither confirmed nor denied Gowdy has plans to make his current term in Congress his last.
Multiple Republican strategists say it’s common knowledge Gowdy eventually wants to go back to South Carolina to serve as a federal judge — a dream for the former prosecutor.
But at least one GOP member of Congress on Wednesday said Fleming likely misconstrued a comment Gowdy made Tuesday night at a House Republican Conference meeting, which prompted the retirement news.
“Trey said something like, ‘I have no ambition for leadership, [I] want to do my job on the select committee, and long to return home to my family in South Carolina.’ But to construe that as a retirement announcement is a real stretch. I think he just said that he misses being away from his family,” the GOP member said.
Fleming later apologized for the brouhaha he started.
“I’ve apologized to Trey privately for having misspoken on his future plans, but wanted to make this apology public,” Fleming said in a statement. “After speaking with him, I do believe that he will be running for re-election. I know Trey intends to fulfill his work on the Select Committee, which may extend beyond this Congress.”
Hours later, reports of Gowdy’s retirement were still bouncing about the twitterverse, with speculation ranging from a skeleton in his closet to being “bullied by the Clintons” in retaliation for his long-running investigation into the Benghazi diplomatic compound attack under then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s watch.
Mulvaney, stepping back into his role as Gowdy’s spokesman and BFF, attempted to “provide some clarity” on the matter Wednesday afternoon.
In a series of tweets, Mulvaney declared: “Trey Gowdy is NOT retiring from Congress.”
“I have said before and I will say again: he would never leave in the middle of the Benghazi investigation.” Mulvaney tweeted.
(5/5) I can say this on fairly good authority, b’c I just spoke w’ Trey about this. I hope that puts any speculation to rest…
— Rep. Mick Mulvaney (@RepMickMulvaney) September 30, 2015