One of the most ridiculous things Republicans have done in recent memory—and there are a lot of ridiculous things they’ve done in recent memory—was to create a House subcommittee to investigate the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Tasked with probing everything from the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago last year to what really happened on January 6, the panel operates on the assumption that agencies and officials within the federal government have abused their power to silence, punish, and hurt conservatives; chaired by Representative Jim Jordan, the committee has vowed to expose this bias against the right. And hey—if Jordan & Co. have any evidence to support their claims, they should definitely make them public! Unfortunately, at this time it appears they very much do not.
As for the first three witnesses to testify behind closed doors to the newly formed subcommittee, a trio the GOP insists are brave whistleblowers with inside knowledge of a huge bias against conservatives within the government, Jordan may as well have picked up a few random folks at the gas station or Dunkin’ Donuts by his house on the way to work, for all they revealed. Oh, sure, the witnesses definitely thought they had the kind of damning information the committee has promised, but according to The New York Times, their collective testimony seemed to be less based on actual evidence than it was on crackpot conspiracies one can read about online.
Per the Times:
The trio appears to be a group of aggrieved former FBI officials who have trafficked in right-wing conspiracy theories, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol…. The roster of witnesses, whose interviews and statements are detailed in a 316-page report compiled by Democrats that was obtained by The New York Times, suggests that Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the panel, has so far relied on people who do not meet the definition of a whistle-blower and who have engaged in partisan conduct that calls into question their credibility.
“Each endorses an alarming series of conspiracy theories related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the COVID vaccine, and the validity of the 2020 election,” Democrats wrote in the heavily footnoted report, which cites scores of statements made by the witnesses. “One has called repeatedly for the dismantling of the FBI. Another suggested that it would be better for Americans to die than to have any kind of domestic intelligence program.”
The report focuses on the testimony of George Hill, a retired supervisory intelligence analyst from the bureau’s Boston field office; Stephen Friend, an ex–special agent who worked in the Daytona Beach office; and Garret O’Boyle, a special agent from the Wichita, Kansas, field office who is currently suspended. As the Times notes, Hill has claimed on Twitter that January 6 was a “set up” and part of a “larger #Democrat plan using their enforcement arm, the #FBI.” For his part, Friend, who has also claimed FBI wrongdoing, was suspended after he refused to take part in a SWAT raid of a January 6 suspect who’d been accused of being a member of a right-wing militia group with ties to the Three Percenter movement, and who had posted a video of himself outside the Capitol on January 6 wearing body armor and a gas mask and holding an AR-15-style rifle. Friend also testified about “being asked to surveil a person attending a school board meeting, touching on a claim promoted by Republicans that the government mistreated conservative parents,” as the Times reports. Yet the Democrats’ report found, according to the Times, “Friend conceded during his interview that the man being tracked was a Three Percenter who was under counterterrorism investigation,” and the man was later arrested on charges related to the January 6 attack.
But wait, there’s more!
Mr. Friend also engaged with Russian propaganda outlets while he was an FBI employee, the report noted, including being quoted extensively in an article in Sputnik headlined “Under Biden Federal Agencies Turned Into Instrument of Intimidation, FBI Whistleblower Says,” and appearing for an interview with Russia Today…. The report also said that Mr. Hill had embraced a conspiracy theory that an Arizona man named Ray Epps was a federal informant who helped to instigate the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Prominent Republicans—including Mr. Trump—have widely promoted the claim, which Mr. Epps denies and the House Jan. 6 committee determined to be unfounded.