Report outs Jim Jordan’s weaponization subcommittee “whistleblowers” as frauds paid by Trump ally

Witnesses got financial support from Trumpers, pushed conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, Democratic report reveals

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published March 3, 2023 9:10AM (EST)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, strikes the gavel to start a hearing on  February 01, 2023 in Washington, DC.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, strikes the gavel to start a hearing on February 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The first three witnesses to testify privately before Rep. Jim Jordan's, R-Ohio, new committee investigating the "weaponization" of government pushed right-wing conspiracy theories and received financial support from a top Trump ally, according to a report from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee.

Jordan formed the committee after Republicans took over the House with the aim of exposing bias against conservatives by the federal government. Jordan last month claimed that there were "dozens and dozens of whistleblowers, FBI agents, coming to us talking about what is going on, the political nature of the Justice Department." But the panel has only transcribed interviews with three purported whistleblowers who appear to not meet the definition of a whistleblower and engaged in partisan conduct that undermines their credibility, according to the 316-page Democratic report.

"Based on interviews of the three witnesses that have been made available to us, we are able to draw a number of striking conclusions about the state of the Republican investigation," the report says. "First, the three individuals we have met are not, in fact, whistleblowers. These individuals, who put forward a wide range of conspiracy theories, did not present actual evidence of any wrongdoing at the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

The report also highlighted "disturbing outside influence" on the witnesses and "potentially" the Republicans on the committee themselves, citing a network of organizations led by former Trump administration officials Kash Patel and Russ Vought that appears to have "identified these witnesses, provided them with financial compensation, and found them employment after they left the FBI."

The report did not disclose the substance of the transcribed interviews but said each of the witnesses "endorses an alarming series of conspiracy theories related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the Covid vaccine, and the validity of the 2020 election."

"One has called repeatedly for the dismantling of the F.B.I," the report added. "Another suggested that it would be better for Americans to die than to have any kind of domestic intelligence program."

One of the witnesses, George Hill, a retired FBI intelligence analyst from the Boston field office, claimed on social media that the Capitol riot was a "set up" and part of a "larger #Democrat plan using their enforcement arm, the #FBI," according to the report. In another tweet, Hill described the FBI as the "Brown Shirt enforcers" of the DNC.

Fellow witness Stephen Friend, a former FBI special agent who worked at the Daytona Beach field office, resigned from the FBI after refusing to take part in a SWAT raid of Jan. 6 Capitol riot suspect Tyler Bensch, an alleged member of the right-wing Three Percenter militia who posted a video of himself outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 carrying an AR-15-style rifle. Friend said the raid constituted "excessive force" and described himself as a "conscientious objector."

Despite his claim, Friend during questioning "confirmed that ownership of a firearm, even without any additional factors, in fact would be enough of a factor on its own to justify deploying a S.W.A.T. team in an arrest."

Friend also claimed that he was asked by FBI officials to surveil a person attending a school board meeting amid Republican claims that the federal government is targeting conservative parents. But Friend admitted during the interview that he was asked to track a Three Percenter under a counterterrorism investigation who was later arrested along with Bensch, according to the report.

The report said that Friend also engaged with Russian propaganda outlets while working at the FBI, including appearances on Russia Today and quotes in a Sputnik article about his claims that President Joe Biden had turned federal agencies into an "instrument of intimidation."

Friend filed a whistleblower complaint to the Justice Department inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel, but his complaint was rejected by both.

Friend is part of a group of former agents who were placed on leave and called themselves the "suspendables" in a letter alleging bias at the bureau against conservative agents.  Friend and another witness, suspended Kansas FBI special agent Garrett O'Boyle, both testified that they received financial support from Patel, a close Trump ally. Friend said that Patel sent him $5,000 after they connected last year and that Patel helped promote his upcoming book on social media. Patel also found Friend a job working as a fellow on domestic intelligence and security services at the Center for Renewing America, which is run by Vought and largely funded by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is run by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

"Based on this evidence, committee Democrats conclude that there is a strong likelihood that Kash Patel is encouraging the witnesses to continue pursuing their meritless claims, and in fact is using them to help propel his vendetta against the F.B.I., Justice Department, and Biden administration on behalf of himself and President Trump," the report said.

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Patel did not comment on the alleged financial support but told The New York Times that whistleblowers who "provide credible information exposing government waste, fraud, and abuse serve a critical role for constitutional oversight."

Democrats said they released the report after learning that Republicans on the committee planned to leak materials from the interviews. Jordan spokesman Russell Dye accused the Democrats of misrepresenting the testimony.

"It is beyond disappointing, but sadly not surprising, that Democrats would leak cherry-picked excerpts of testimony to attack the brave whistle-blowers who risked their careers to speak out on abuses at the Justice Department and F.B.I.," Dye told The New York Times. "These same Democrats vowed to fight our oversight 'tooth and nail,' and they are willing to undermine the work of the Congress to achieve their partisan goals."

Democrats cited the report to raise questions about the other "dozens" of witnesses Jordan claims have come forward.

"Who knows whether he has dozens. Who are these people? Why haven't we been given a list? What kind of credibility do they have?" Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told CNN.

But Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., accused Democrats of trying to discredit the purported whistleblowers before hearing them out.

"Discounting whistleblowers before the Democrats know what the witnesses have to offer says a lot more about their agenda than it does about the validity of the whistleblowers," he told CNN.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who sits on the Judiciary panel, countered that Republicans on the committee "should be ashamed for doing this."

"What happens when Republicans use purported 'whistleblowers' that were paid?" he tweeted. "They make stuff up and say crazy things."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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