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Benghazi Enthusiast and Onetime Suspected Arsonist Darrell Issa Retires, Possibly Opening Seat for Dems

California Rep. Darrell Issa at a hearing on Capitol Hill in 2014.
California Rep. Darrell Issa on Capitol Hill in 2014.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa is retiring:

The retirement of a Republican incumbent in a blue-state district that Hillary Clinton won by seven points in 2016 seems like good news for Democrats, although there’s an argument to be made that Issa’s traditionally conservative San Diego/Orange County district may be inclined to elect a Republican if the party can rustle up someone who isn’t associated with Trumpism. (Issa himself has long been a promoter of dubious conspiracy theories on subjects ranging from climate change to Benghazi, so there would be some Frankenstein-killing-his-creator irony in the GOP losing his seat over Trump.)

As a 2011 New Yorker story described in detail, Issa is also quite the character. He made a fortune in the car alarm business and, in his younger days, was indicted for grand theft auto and accused by a disgruntled business partner of having burned down a factory for insurance money. (The auto theft charges were dismissed and he was never criminally charged with arson.) It is Issa’s actual voice that instructs would be-thieves to “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR” when the Viper car-alarm system is triggered.

Here’s a heck of a passage from that New Yorker profile:

Issa allegedly used an unusual method to fire Jack Frantz, an employee. Frantz told the Los Angeles Times that Issa came into his office, placed a box on the table, and opened it to reveal a gun. Issa told the paper, “Shots were never fired. If I asked Jack to leave, then I think I had every right to ask Jack to leave… . I don’t recall [having a gun]. I really don’t. I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”

Look, he doesn’t think he ever pulled a gun on anyone. Can he say that for sure? No, but who can, really?

Godspeed, Darrell Issa.

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