Republicans and Democrats clashed during a tense hearing Thursday on three FBI agents who Republicans say were retaliated against for blowing the whistle on bias at the agency — and who Democrats argue were used of the GOP to legitimize Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
GOP lawmakers have accused the FBI of retaliating against “truth tellers” by revoking their security clearances because they support conservative views and take their concerns to House Judiciary Republicans. Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“Politics drives federal agencies,” said Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee, saying the government is targeting citizens who are not politically correct.
“What’s scary is if you’re one of those good employees who come forward to talk about targeting, you’re going to be a target,” he added.
Democrats countered by arguing that the GOP, in the words of Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), is using the hearing as “a vehicle to legitimize the events of Jan. 6 and the people who did them.”
They questioned the credibility of FBI agents and whether they should be considered whistleblowers, clashed with Republicans over access to documents and materials, and accused the panel of being a tool for President Trump.
“This select committee is a clearing house for testing conspiracy theories that Donald Trump will use in his 2024 presidential campaign,” said Rep. Stacey Plaskett (VI), the panel’s ranking Democrat.
“You all have employment complaints. That does not make you a whistleblower,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
The hearing, which came just days after Special Counsel John Durham released a report that offered sharp criticism for the FBI’s opening of an investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign ties to Russia. , highlighted the GOP’s suspicions of federal intelligence and law enforcement organizations.
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) once cited the piercing evil eye from the Lord of the Rings series to describe the FBI.
“The Eye of Sauron has returned within, and it is moving with a white-hot intensity that seeks to destroy everything in its path,” he said.
The hearing was accompanied by the release on Thursday of an interim staff report from Republicans on the panel detailing alleged abuses at the FBI, as described by what Republicans say are several whistleblowers.
Allegations in the report and at the hearing range from agents being ordered to write down license plate numbers in a parking lot outside a school board meeting to being forced to open cases against people who traveled to Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 , but did not enter the Capitol.
Democrats have already preemptively opposed the GOP’s “weapon use” investigation, wrote in a 300-page report in March that some of the GOP witnesses were connected to Republicans on the committee through people with deep ties to former President Trump. Rep. Dan Goldman (DN.Y.) reiterated and established at the hearing that two of the witnesses received donations from Kash Patel, a former senior Department of Defense official who is a surrogate for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.
Jordan dismissed the financial connection between the witnesses and Trump allies in a press conference on Thursday.
“They have a family. How will they pay their family?” Jordan said.
Thursday’s hearing also came a day after the FBI sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee detailing the reasons why the agency revoked security clearances from three agents, including two who testified to subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
According to a copy of the FBI letter obtained by The Hill, agent Brett Gloss, who did not testify at the hearing and was not charged with a crime, was in a restricted area on the grounds of the US Capitol in January 6, 2021, which amounts to criminal trespass and “questionable judgment” showing that he did not properly protect classified or sensitive information.
Agent Marcus Allen, one of the witnesses at Thursday’s hearing, revoked his security clearance after the agency found that he “relied on alternative theories of co-workers” around January 6 “in an apparent attempt to prevent in investigative activity,” including sharing a theory that federal law enforcement has penetrated the crowd.
“It appears that I was retaliated against because I passed on information to my superiors that questioned the official account on January 6,” Allen said at Thursday’s hearing. He also said the FBI’s claim that he was “warned” by his supervisor was inaccurate.
The FBI also found that a case related to Jan. 6 was closed after Allen said he found no relevant information about a subject — but that case was later reopened after another FBI employee found relevant information available to the public. The man attacked an official at the Capitol on January 6, the agency said.
At one point in the hearing, Democrats stumbled in an attempt to push the credibility of witnesses when Sánchez asked Allen to mention a Twitter account with the name “Marcus Allen” that retweeted a tweet claiming that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D -Calif.) attacked the Capitol on January 6. Allen responded that it was not his Twitter account – and that he did not agree with the message, condemning the violence at the Capitol that day.
Agent Stephen Friend, the FBI said, had his security clearance revoked after he acknowledged that he “publicly released sensitive FBI information on his personal social media accounts without permission,” participating in unapproved media interviews, and secretly recorded a meeting with FBI management.
The friend testified to the committee that after raising concerns to his superiors about how the FBI handled the investigations in Jan. 6 subjects, the FBI suspended him without pay.
The friend testified that he was assigned to attend a school board meeting and took the information from the attendance plates in the parking lot. He also said that after he was suspended from the FBI, his investigations into child sexual exploitation material were turned over to local law enforcement rather than another federal agent.
The third witness, Garrett O’Boyle, had his security clearance suspended but not fully revoked, but was suspended without pay after he raised concerns with his chain of command and then notified Congress. She had recently moved across the country for work, and choked up as she described the FBI holding onto her family’s belongings — including her children’s clothing — for six weeks before they could gain access. this.
Jordan said O’Boyle was the first whistleblower to tell the committee about the process the FBI used to assess threats against school board members, which he said resulted in zero prosecutions.
“If the citizens of this country get to the point where they can call the most powerful law enforcement agency in the world on their neighbor just because they don’t agree with them, that will chill the First Amendment rights of those person who got the FBI called them,” O’Boyle said at the hearing.
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment on the GOP hearing and report.
Mike Lillis contributed.
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