On “Weaponization” Subcommittee, Hageman and GOP Plan Investigations of Investigators

During its first hearing, the panel’s Republicans relitigated old grievances and previewed new inquiries

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) spoke briefly during a four-hour kickoff hearing of a new select subcommittee investigating the "weaponization" of the government: "The culture and mission of the FBI and DOJ have changed in a manner that run counter to the rights and liberties of the American people," she said. (Photo via YouTube/House Judiciary GOP)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the U.S. House — Wyoming’s Rep. Harriet Hageman among them — launched an offensive against the Biden administration on Thursday with the first hearing of the select subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the government, newly established to investigate alleged targeting of conservatives by the Justice Department, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Thursday’s hearing featured testimony from Republican lawmakers and GOP-aligned figures, as well as former law enforcement officials. Over two panels, Republicans sought to highlight supposed politicization of federal agencies and concerns about Americans’ rights to free speech and expression being impeded.

Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, speaks as Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, the ranking member, right, listens, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on what Republicans say is the politicization of the FBI and Justice Department and attacks on American civil liberties on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Americans have concerns about the double standard at the Department of Justice,” Jordan said in opening remarks, pointing to alleged whistleblower reports from former law enforcement officials claiming politicization of federal agencies. “Big government and big tech colluded to shape and mold the narrative, and to suppress information and censor Americans.”

Democrats, meanwhile, denounced their GOP colleagues as vectors of misinformation, espousing fears that the weaponization subcommittee was created not to investigate the government but for political retribution.

“There is a difference, my colleagues, between legitimate oversight and weaponization of Congress… as a political tool,” countered Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), the ranking Democrat on the panel. “I’m deeply concerned about the use of this select subcommittee as a place to settle scores [and] showcase conspiracy theories.”

The first panel featured testimony from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), as well as former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a one-time Democrat who switched parties to become an Independent and emerged as a Fox News commentator last year.

Their testimony was highly reminiscent of talking points from conservative cable news outlets, alleging “collusion” between Democrats and Russia to start investigations into Donald Trump ahead of his 2016 campaign and claiming that the Biden administration extensively coordinated with Twitter executives to censor opposing views. Fact-checkers have repeatedly dubbed both claims to be false.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the only Democratic witness on the first panel, tried to offer Republicans on the committee an olive branch: “Your subcommittee could be a part of a proud history of serious bipartisan oversight,” he posed. “Or,” Raskin continued, “you could take oversight down a very dark alley filled with conspiracy theories and disinformation.” 

A second group of witnesses included Thomas Baker and Nicole Parker, former FBI officials turned prominent critics of the agency, as well as George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley, another frequent Fox News guest who served as a prominent defender of former President Trump during his first impeachment hearings. Elliot Williams, a former Obama administration DOJ official and current CNN legal analyst, was invited by the subcommittee’s Democrats for the second panel.

“I have seen firsthand and fought against the weaponization of the federal government against my fellow Wyoming citizens and the country at large,” Hageman said in brief comments during the four-hour hearing. “It is clear that the culture and mission of the FBI and DOJ have changed in a manner that run counter to the rights and liberties of the American people.” 

Republican-invited witnesses decried a litany of alleged conspiracies, as lawmakers on the committee sparred over everything from the rules governing civil service employees’ post-government work to Republicans’ refusal to share notes or information about some of their work thus far with the panel’s Democrats. Ultimately, the hearing drew to a close with little resolution on the topics at hand.

Also prominent in Thursday’s hearing were allegations about President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and the supposed foreign entanglements that, Republicans alleged, have compromised he and the president. Republican leaders have issued subpoenas for records from Biden’s son and brother, James, though officials have rebuffed such efforts. Democrats have urged caution in interfering with an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the matter.

And the White House, for its part, appears intent on painting the subcommittee as a “political stunt.” Ian Sams, White House oversight spokesman, released a statement Thursday morning critiquing the panel as a “Fox News reboot of the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

“[E]xtreme 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,’” Sams’ statement continued, “instead of taking a deep breath and deciding to work with the President and Democrats in Congress to improve Americans’ everyday lives.”

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