March 3, 2023
Today the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee demonstrated that they will actively fight back against Republicans’ false narratives. House Republicans, led by Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), have insisted they had evidence of the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation against Republicans. Jordan has claimed to have “dozens and dozens of whistleblowers…talking about what is going on, the political nature at the Justice Department.”
These allegations that Republicans are victims of a “deep state” follow Trump’s insistence that the FBI’s investigation of the ties between his 2016 campaign and Russian operatives was “a witch hunt” led by Democrats. Jordan and other Republican members of Congress developed that same theme in their performances defending Trump during his first impeachment trial. Trump defenders continued to say on television and other media that they were victims of the FBI investigation of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
But now, in charge of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, established under the Judiciary Committee, Jordan and the Republicans actually have to produce evidence of their allegations. So far, they have held one hearing. It was a fiasco as the Republicans’ witnesses, including Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), made rambling statements that rehashed old grievances without presenting any new evidence, and Democrats repeatedly accused Republicans of trying to use the powers of the government to advance political talking points.
Recently, Republicans have begun to release pieces of the private interviews they conducted with those claiming they could prove the FBI was persecuting Republicans. Rather than permit them to establish a false narrative, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and the top Democrat on the weaponization subcommittee, Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), today released a deeply researched and footnoted 316-page report that shreds the Republicans’ story.
The report reveals the Republicans’ “dozens and dozens of whistleblowers” are, so far at least, three witnesses—whistleblower is actually a specific category and they do not meet that standard—who have left the FBI and have complained that the agency is biased against “conservatives.” Two of them lost their security clearances before they left, and while committee Republicans refused to show Democrats the men’s suspension notices, one revealed in his testimony that the notice arrived after he had improperly accessed documents from the FBI’s classified system. All three embrace a number of conspiracy theories. Under oath, they provided only right-wing accusations of bias without being able to attest to any first-hand knowledge of the things they alleged.
The witnesses did not come forward on their own; they were identified by former administrators in the Trump administration, including fervent Trump loyalists Kash Patel and Russell Vought. Patel provided money and legal services to two of the witnesses and found one of them a job at Vought’s right-wing think tank, the Center for Renewing America, after he left the FBI.
The witnesses were all fervent Trump supporters who were sympathetic to those involved in the January 6th attack. One of them claimed that the January 6th attack was a “set-up” and that it was “a larger #Democrat plan using their enforcement arm, the #FBI.” He described the FBI as “the Brown Shirt enforcers of the @DNC,” a reference to Nazi Storm Troopers. Another has repeatedly called for the FBI to be “defunded,” “dismantled,” “dissolved,” “aborted,” “abolished,” and “completely eliminated and eradicated from the federal government.”
In a section of the report titled “An Analysis of Witness Testimony Shows That Committee Republicans Are Working to Advance a Politically Motivated Messaging Campaign Unsupported by the Evidence,” Nadler and Plaskett show how the witness testimony directly rebutted the Republicans’ talking points. Under examination, the witnesses disproved that the Department of Justice was trying to pad its case numbers regarding domestic violent extremism, that it had diverted resources from child abuse cases to pursue January 6 offenders, and that the FBI had overreacted to threats of violence against school administrators and local political officials, all Republican talking points.
The Democrats provided extensive evidence to suggest that Patel was egging on the witnesses to help push Trump’s fight against the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Biden administration. Now, they said, it appears that he and his allies are trying to use the subcommittee in this same effort. The Democrats expressed “serious concerns” about the possible coordination between Patel and the Republican committee members.
They explained: Patel is currently a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America (CRA), a MAGA think tank that pushed the House Republicans to establish the subcommittee. The CRA was founded by Christian nationalist Russell Vough—now working with the Republicans on their budget plan—and is funded by the Conservative Partnership institute (CPI), which is run by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and former senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).
Axios author Jonathan Swan described CPI as “a who’s-who of Trump’s former administration and the ‘America First’ movement,” “the hub of the hard right in Washington.” Their headquarters is where the right-wing extremist “Freedom Caucus” meets, and the notoriously stingy Trump authorized a $1 million donation to the CPI in 2021.
In short, the Democrats are suggesting that the House Republicans who established the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government are themselves trying to weaponize the government to advance the interests of Trump and the MAGA Republicans. Nadler and Plaskett quoted Jordan’s statement at the August 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference, when he promised that his investigation would “frame up the 2024 race when I hope and I think President Trump is going to run again and we need to make sure that he wins.”
The official Republican House Judiciary Twitter account responded vaguely: “Cherry-picked leaks. Partial transcripts. All to disparage brave whistleblowers. Democrats should be ashamed.”
But, just as they did with the Republicans’ reluctance to show the American people their budget plan, the Democrats are calling the Republicans’ bluff. “We urge Chairman Jordan to schedule the public testimony of these individuals without delay,” Nadler and Plaskett wrote. “The American public should be able to judge for themselves whether these witnesses or their allegations are remotely credible.”