House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH, right, greets Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, before the first hearing of the Weaponization of the Federal Government subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Feb. 9, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Democrats on Thursday urged the GOP lawmakers running the new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government to work with them on genuine oversight investigations that weren’t political or focused on leveling grievances.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said during the panel’s first hearing that the subcommittee “could conceivably become part of a proud history of serious bipartisan oversight stretching from the Teapot Dome investigation to the Boeing investigation to the Watergate hearings to the tobacco hearings to the select committee on the Jan. 6 attack.”
“Or it could take oversight down a very dark alley filled with conspiracy theories and disinformation — a place where facts are the enemy and partisan destruction is the overriding goal,” Raskin added.
Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, shared few details about exactly where the panel will focus its efforts during the 118th Congress.
But he did mention the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Internal Revenue Services as federal agencies likely to get put under the panel’s microscope.
He also said the committee would ultimately release a bill to address its concerns.
“Over the course of our work in this committee, we expect to hear from government officials and experts, like we have here today,” Jordan said.
“We expect to hear from Americans who have been targeted by their government, we expect to hear from people in the media and we expect to hear from the FBI agents who came forward as whistleblowers,” Jordan added. “We think many of them will sit for transcribed interviews as one did on Tuesday, and we believe several of them will testify in open hearings.”
Grassley and Johnson testify
The first panel to testify in front of the subcommittee included Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, Raskin and former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Grassley and Johnson both spoke about the investigations they’ve led into the finances and business dealings of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, as well as how the Justice Department handled the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s clear to me that the Justice Department and the FBI are suffering from a political infection that, if it’s not defeated, will cause the American people no longer to trust these storied institutions,” Grassley said. “It will also threaten the American way of life.”
Grassley rebuked Democratic lawmakers for openly questioning his prior investigations and federal investigators for their actions during the past few years, listing former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, among others.
He then committed to working with the U.S. House panel to help them investigate further.
“Your committee here has an opportunity to help us write the last chapter in this real life drama,” Grassley said. “You must relentlessly pursue the facts and the evidence.”
Johnson mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 1 million Americans, questioning the motivations behind the economic shutdown and federal research that led to a vaccine, both of which occurred during the Trump administration.
He alleged that the World Health Organization has been “captured” by the Chinese government, that global institutions have been “captured” by the left and that some charitable organizations are exerting more power over public policy than they should be allowed.
“I have barely scratched the surface in describing the complexity, power and destructive nature of the forces that we face,” Johnson said.
Johnson called on whistleblowers from throughout the federal government to come forward to share information with the panel.
“Our founders fully understood that government was necessary to avoid anarchy. But they also knew that government power was something to fear,” he said. “That’s why they devised a set of checks and balances to limit government power and influence over our lives.”
Following his Republican colleagues’ assertions of Democratic “weaponization” of the federal government, Maryland’s Raskin read off a list of actions undertaken by the Trump administration, which he argued were prime examples of the “weaponization” of the Justice Department.
Raskin pressed the panel to work in a bipartisan manner, arguing that “oversight must be organized around a comprehensive search for the truth … not around revenge.”
“It’s one thing to engage in systematic oversight driven by a commitment to facts and the truth,” Raskin added. “And something radically different to set up a platform for a series of hit-and-run partisan attacks that are just vindictive and debt-driven and meant to frame up a presidential campaign in 2024.”
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