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GOP senators testify on FBI in first ‘Weaponization’ panel hearing

Democrats, White House call the hearing a political stunt

Witness Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, before the start of a Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
Witness Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, before the start of a Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans rehashed grievances against the FBI during the first hearing Thursday of a select House subcommittee looking into the federal government’s “weaponization,” with Democrats characterizing the panel as a political stunt.

Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in opening remarks that FBI agents have approached lawmakers to talk about the political nature at the Justice Department. “Not Jim Jordan saying this. Not Republicans, not conservatives. Good, brave FBI agents who are willing to come forward and give us the truth,” Jordan said.

Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin testified at the hearing about their allegations of bias at the FBI.

Grassley, who previously served as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the agency and some Democrats of undermining legitimate congressional inquiries.

“It’s clear to me that the Justice Department and the FBI are suffering from a political infection that, if it’s not defeated, will cause the American people no longer to trust these storied institutions,” Grassley said.

Grassley encouraged Jordan to pursue the evidence and the facts. Republicans launched the committee soon after they took control of the House last month.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin also testified, and the ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee said the Trump administration brought government weaponization to frighteningly new levels.

A serious bipartisan committee on the weaponization of government would zero in on the Trump administration, Raskin said. The former member of the now-disbanded House select panel on the Jan. 6 attack pointed to numerous examples he saw from the previous administration.

“The public is skeptical about this strange new venture, with this strange new name that’s being launched,” Raskin said of the subcommittee. “Because so many of the members involved have done everything they can to block the Jan. 6th committee’s investigation of the worst insurrectionary domestic violent attack on an American election.”

The public, said Raskin, wonders whether lawmakers who did not comply with congressional subpoenas should be issuing them. Jordan was among the lawmakers who did not comply with a congressional subpoena from the Jan 6 committee.

Raskin also pointed to remarks that Jordan made in August. The Ohio Republican said investigative efforts “will help 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.”

Partisan rifts

Heated rhetoric, which defined large parts of the Thursday hearing, displayed the deep partisan rifts that underscore the creation of the panel.

The subcommittee will give Republicans the opportunity to look deeper into complaints against the federal government, while Democrats argue conservatives will use it as a political weapon to push false conspiracy theories.

Johnson, who is the ranking member on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, used his testimony to criticize the FBI and call on whistleblowers to come forward.

“Because the administration is not cooperative and transparent, Congress needs whistleblowers from agencies throughout the federal government,” Johnson said.

Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., the ranking member of the “weaponization” subcommittee, said she and her Democratic colleagues will resist any attempt by the panel to derail legitimate ongoing investigations into former President Donald Trump or any other president.

“I’m deeply concerned about the use of [the] select subcommittee as a place to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories, and advance an extreme agenda that risks undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy,” Plaskett said.

Meanwhile, the White House assailed the panel on Thursday, calling it a “political stunt.”

“This committee plans to weaponize the MAGA agenda against their perceived political enemies, going after civil servants, private citizens, and the rule of law — all in service of getting booked on Fox News,” wrote Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, in a memo.

Instead of working with Democrats, “MAGA Republicans in Congress” are deciding “to go down the rabbit hole of debunked conspiracy theories about a ‘deep state,’” Sams wrote.

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