House Judiciary GOP charts course for FBI, DOJ probes in lengthy report
The Hill: Rebecca Beitsch, Emily Brooks
Washington, November 4, 2022
Tags: Rule of Law
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee released a lengthy staff report on Friday on alleged politicization and anti-conservative bias in the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), a document that will serve as a road map for more probes of the agencies if the GOP wins control of the House in next week’s midterm elections.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the stewardship of Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, is broken,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the committee who is likely to chair the panel next year if Republicans win a majority, said in a tweet alongside the report.
The bulk of the 1,050-page document is copies of letters that Republicans have already sent to the agencies, with 1,000 pages of the report covering correspondence from the last year. That includes multiple copies of a five-page letter, one for each of the 93 U.S. attorneys plus the FBI director and the acting assistant attorney general.
But the report teases their desire for future investigations and includes on its fifth page a notice to FBI agents and DOJ employees that they have the right to speak with members of Congress.
“There is likely much more to be uncovered in the months ahead,” the report said.
The FBI and DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The report lays out a laundry list of complaints about FBI and DOJ handling of various matters, including alleged manipulation of domestic violent extremism statistics, communication with social media companies about misinformation, alleged retaliation against agents who attended rallies outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, alleged investigations into parents in school board–related cases and the FBI’s seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) cellphone in connection with investigations about plans to overturn 2020 election results.
It also includes a charitable review of former President Trump’s level of cooperation with the bureau throughout the FBI’s investigation into his handling of classified records at Mar-a-Lago.
It called his initial return of some documents “over-inclusive” despite it taking numerous return visits, including one with a warrant, to secure more than 10,000 government records stored there.
It also brings up longstanding anger from Republicans and Trump over the Justice Department’s surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in connection with concerns about Russian influence in the 2016 election. The Justice Department later declared two of the four warrants invalid.
Jordan has relied heavily on whistleblowers from within the FBI to make complaints against the agency, and the report includes quotes from unnamed whistleblowers who say the FBI hierarchy is “rotted at its core,” maintains a “systemic culture of unaccountability” and is full of “rampant corruption, manipulation, and abuse.”
Jordan has for months complained the FBI has politicized its response to domestic extremism, citing a whistleblower to contend that some cases have been inappropriately labeled as domestic violent extremism cases.
The FBI has wholly rejected that, noting the dangerous uptick in extremism on all fronts while warning of a growth in those motivated by white supremacist beliefs.
Jordan has also been laser-focused on a memo Garland signed in October of last year noting a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff” amid broader discussions over COVID-19 policies and how issues such as race and gender are addressed at school.
The memo largely encouraged coordination, asking the FBI to convene meetings with local law enforcement in the following 30 days to discuss how to respond to threats of violence. It ultimately resulted in little payoff, particularly given the swift GOP backlash.
Jordan by his own count has sent more than 100 letters on the subject.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is likely to be Speaker if Republicans win the majority, has greenlighted future investigations into the DOJ. After the Mar-a-Lago search, McCarthy in a statement told Garland to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” signaling that Republicans will use the force of subpoenas to compel documents and testimony in connection with concerns about politicization.
One key development in the GOP probes of alleged politicization will come next month, before any official change in the House’s power structure. Former FBI official Jill Sanborn is set to sit for a transcribed interview with the Judiciary panel’s Republicans on Dec. 2. Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) sought her testimony about whistleblower claims that the FBI pressured agents to improperly classify cases as “domestic violent extremism.”
Jordan is scheduled to appear at a rally with Trump in Ohio on Monday, the day before Election Day.