Quid probe quo: US Republicans investigate the investigators
Jan 11, 2023 - 10:21 AM
WASHINGTON — Republicans are firing the opening salvo in their investigative war against US President Joe Biden, escalating a standoff with the White House over alleged “weaponization” of the FBI and other government agencies.
A House of Representatives subcommittee due for launch on Tuesday and led by Ohio’s Jim Jordan, a darling of the hard right, will have a broad mandate to probe any government agency or program.
The newly-minted Republican House majority has long signalled plans to turn the tables on Democrats after years of criminal and civil investigations into former president Donald Trump.
Biden administration officials are girding themselves for a barrage of demands for copies of communications with Big Tech, the Internal Revenue Service, law enforcement and the intelligence community.
The launch of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government was a condition of hardliners for backing Kevin McCarthy in last week’s fraught speaker election, prompting criticism that it is politically-motivated.
“The fact that my Republican colleagues are contemplating revenge hearings tells you a lot,” new House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told MSNBC as details emerged just before the new year.
“Instead of being focused on trying to address the problems of the American people… my Republican colleagues perhaps have not learned any lesson from their historic underperformance in the most recent midterm elections.”
Democrats say the point is to undermine ongoing investigations into Trump misconduct, including around the 2021 assault on the US Capitol, and more broadly to muddy the waters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Ominously, the panel has asserted powers to oversee “ongoing criminal investigations” — putting Republicans on a collision course with the DOJ, which has a history of fiercely protecting open probes.
McCarthy signposted sweeping plans to “hold the Swamp accountable” after winning the speaker’s gavel on Saturday, pledging probes on topics ranging from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan to “the origins of Covid and to the weaponization of the FBI.”
But he and Jordan face a credibility problem as both steadfastly ignored subpoenas ordering them to testify to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack.
The investigations are also likely to involve Republicans accused of helping Trump in his bid to subvert the will of voters and overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Scott Perry, the chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, has refused to recuse himself from planned probes of the investigation into the insurrection, despite being a focus of prosecutors himself.
“Well, why should I be limited — why should anybody be limited — just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise,” he told ABC on Sunday.
Perry’s phone was seized after a judge found that there was probable cause to believe it contained evidence of criminality.
Democrats have taken to calling the panel “The MAGA Grievance Subcommittee” — referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.
New York congressman Jerry Nadler, Jordan’s opposite number at the top of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel was designed to “inject extremist politics into our justice system (and) shield the MAGA movement from the legal consequences of their actions.”
The subcommittee is not just scrutinizing investigations.
It was created partly in response to the release of internal files by Twitter owner Elon Musk that Republicans say demonstrated that the company was working with government officials to silence right wing voices.
Jordan wrote to several tech giants in December asking for details of “‘collusion’ with the Biden administration to censor conservatives on their platforms.”
But its top target is likely to be the FBI, which Republicans argue has been politicized by liberals, and its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The subcommittee is expected to be approved in House votes Tuesday that will also create a panel looking at competition with China.
A separate panel, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, plans hearings on “Biden family influence-peddling” focusing on alleged financial misconduct by the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
Committee chairman James Comer told Punchbowl News he is “pretty confident that a majority of Americans have no idea the extent to Hunter Biden’s criminal activity.”
He added, without pointing to any evidence, that “Joe Biden was directly involved in that.”
Fewer than a third of Americans believe investigating Biden should be “high priority,” according to a new CBS poll.