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Democrats go after GOP whistleblowers who testified in FBI probes

By Sarah May
|
March 4, 2023

As House Republicans continue to pursue a promised probe of weaponization of the federal government, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are calling into question some of the witnesses who have already participated in the investigation, as The Hill reports.

Among the complaints leveled against some of those who have talked with GOP members thus far include accusations that the witnesses have not provided evidence of wrongdoing and that they have links to individuals close to former President Donald Trump.

Whistleblower status questioned

According to The Hill, committee Democrats have focused their criticisms on interviews conducted with three witnesses they say have little or no firsthand knowledge of FBI operations and are actually interested in fostering Republican conspiracy theories.

In a report released on March 2, Democrats on the Judiciary panel contend, “The three individuals we have met are not, in fact, 'whistleblowers.' These individuals, who put forward a wide range of conspiracy theories, did not present actual evidence of any wrongdoing at the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Panel Democrats also blast what they view as the “active engagement and orchestration of disturbing outside influence on the witnesses, and, potentially, the Republican members of the Select Subcommittee.”

Specifically problematic, according to the Democrats, is the alleged involvement of former Trump administration figures such as former Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought and former Defense Department official Kash Patel in identifying witnesses for the Republican majority, offering them financial compensation, and securing employment on their behalf.

Republicans fire back

In responding to the allegation, Republican committee members emphasized the breach of standard protocol involved in the Democrats' decision to publicize the content of the transcribed interviews conducted thus far.

While Democrats admitted that the move was indeed a bit unorthodox and suggested it was not something they would do “in the ordinary course of business,” their explanation did not placate those on the other side of the aisle.

Russell Dye, spokesperson for Republican Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (OH-04) declared, “It is beyond disappointing, but sadly not surprising, that Democrats would leak cherry-picked excerpts of testimony to attack the brave whistleblowers who risked their careers to speak out on abuses at the Justice Department and FBI.”

“These same Democrats vowed to fight our oversight 'tooth and nail,' and they are willing to undermine the work of the Congress to achieve their partisan goals,” Dye added.

Partisan obstruction alleged

Dye's frustrations were echoed by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-01), who addressed the controversy Friday in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), as The Hill noted.

“If the Democrats are going to obstruct our investigation, then I am calling to remove the Democrats from our investigation,” Gaetz began.

The congressman continued, “They shouldn't be allowed to sit in the depositions and hear the evidence if they are going to use that to try to get in the way of thorough, rigorous oversight.”

Rachel Semmel of the Center for Renewing America, an organization for which Patel serves as a senior fellow and one of the three committee witnesses is now a domestic intelligence and security fellow, took aim at the Democrats' report by saying, “The media is coordinating with the Left on the next phase of protecting weaponized government: discredit the brave ones who have come forward to blow the whistle on a security state that is weaponized against the American people, instead of protecting them.”

Jordan advances probe

Seemingly undeterred by the Democrats' gambit, on Friday, Rep. Jordan dispatched a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray seeking interviews with 16 employees of the agency, declaring their testimony “vital for carrying out [the committee's] oversight,” according to CNN.

Jordan told Wray in the written communication, “We are aware that the Justice Department has preemptively indicated that it intends to limit the scope and nature of information available to the Committee as part of our oversight.”

The Ohio Republican continued, “You should know, however, that despite the Department's assertions to the contrary, congressional committees have regularly received testimony from non-Senate-confirmed and line-level Justice Department employees, including FBI employees, in the past. We expect this past precedent to apply to our oversight as well.”

The FBI has yet to offer comment on Jordan's latest salvo, but it appears that the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee show no sign of backing down, despite Democratic attempts to delegitimize the investigative process and discredit those witnesses who have been willing to speak thus far.