A much-anticipated new House panel held its first hearing Thursday, Feb. 9. The Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a creation of the Judiciary Committee and led by Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), is tasked with answering one question: Has the executive branch under President Joe Biden been used to target conservatives?
The initial hearing laid the framework for those to come and set forth some expectations – but it also highlighted division, as the handful of Democrats on the panel lambasted the subcommittee as just a way to settle a score. Republicans and Democrats both agree that the government has been weaponized; by whom is the point of contention.
Promise Made, Promise Kept
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other House Republicans promised long before the 2022 midterms to investigate the president and his family’s foreign dealings and whether or not Biden used the DOJ as a cudgel against his political opponents, including former President Donald Trump. The GOP-controlled House has already held hearings on Biden’s border policies, federal COVID relief spending, and Twitter’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop debacle. The weaponization subcommittee is another promise kept.
Rep. Jordan said in his opening statement that the committee would look into concerns that the Justice Department, including the FBI, DHS, ATF, and the IRS, have worked with Big Tech to “suppress information and censor Americans.” Members heard from two panels. The first included current and former lawmakers: Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and formerly a representative of the Democratic Party, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The second panel included George Washington University law professor and Fox contributor Jonathan Turley, CNN legal analyst and former deputy assistant attorney general Elliot Williams, and two former FBI agents who accuse the bureau of increasing politicization, Thomas Baker and Nichole Parker.
The subcommittee is also tasked with examining the executive branch’s methods of gathering information on and investigating US citizens, “including ongoing criminal investigations.” It seems likely the FBI’s August search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home will eventually face scrutiny, and Jordan claims that, over the course of the investigation, the committee will hear from many more whistleblowers.
Weaponization – But by Whom?
Sen. Grassley said he had never seen so much willingness “from the FBI, the partisan media and some of my Democratic colleagues to interfere with and undermine very legitimate congressional inquiries.” Gabbard targeted cancel culture, saying that Americans don’t feel safe expressing their opinions and “individuals in our government, often working through their arms in the mainstream media and big tech … get to decide what is true and what is false.” Former FBI agent Nichole Parker, who joined the bureau in 2009, claimed she has seen the agency getting more and more politicized as time went on. She told Fox News last month of a “constant pattern” of different treatment from case to case based on “political persuasion.”
But to the Democrats, it’s Republicans who – today – are wielding the government as a political weapon. “Millions of Americans already fear that weaponization is the right name for this special subcommittee – not because weaponization of the government is its target but because weaponization of the government is its purpose,” said Rep. Raskin.
Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, who serves as the panel’s top Democrat, said she was “deeply concerned about the use of this select committee as a place to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories, and advance an extreme agenda that risks undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy.”
“These extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress are choosing to make it their top priority to go down the rabbit hole of debunked conspiracy theories about a ‘deep state’ instead of taking a deep breath and deciding to work with the president and Democrats in Congress to improve Americans’ everyday lives,” Ian Sams, spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement ahead of Thursday’s hearing.
Weaponization of the government, it seems, is a matter of perspective. The GOP believes the executive has been turned against them under the Biden administration, and the left feels it’s the GOP-controlled House that is targeting political enemies. But if the congressional investigations of today are weaponization, then what of the various investigations of Trump during his presidency? If the lawmakers pushing the probes now are “extreme MAGA Republicans,” then what were the Democrats when they refused to work with the president and Republicans in Congress to improve Americans’ everyday lives?
The Truth Will Out
Rep. Jordan said the subcommittee would hold more public hearings in the future, as well as take transcribed interviews from experts, government officials, members of the media, FBI whistleblowers, and “Americans who’ve been targeted by their government.” Democrat Dan Goldman of New York, who served as lead counsel in Trump’s first impeachment trial, pushed back on Jordan’s claim there are dozens of FBI whistleblowers, but the chairman promised the subcommittee would schedule depositions for each and that the Democrats could attend.
If Jordan’s promises are kept, it would mean far more transparency and actual evidence than was ever delivered in the various Trump investigations. Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) promised evidence demonstrating collusion between the former president and Russia – which never materialized – springs to mind. The panel must submit a final report to the House by Jan. 2, 2025, and – according to Jordan – it will also prepare legislation “that will help protect the American people.” But will this be just another nothing burger investigation, or will it uncover actual political weaponization of executive agencies?
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