Government watchdogs on Friday accused Republicans on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee of illegitimate "theatrics" as Democrats released a 300-page report outlining major weaknesses in the GOP's investigation into supposed political bias at the FBI.
Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is leading a probe into anti-Republican bias at the law enforcement bureau and has claimed that his party has heard from "dozens and dozens of whistleblowers" about how the FBI has been "weaponized" against the right—but having heard the testimonies of three witnesses, the Democrats said, they can confidently say the people selected by the GOP "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 FBI," reads the Democrats' report, titled GOP Witnesses: What Their Disclosures Indicate About the State of the Republican Investigations.
The report outlines the testimony given by retired FBI analyst George Hill; suspended former FBI special agent Garret O'Boyle, and former special agent Stephen Friend.
The three witnesses failed to offer convincing evidence of wrongdoing at the agency, and unlike whistleblowers who risk their careers and personal safety to alert the public about malfeasance in the government or a corporation, said the Democrats, their testimonies appear to be the result of "the active engagement and orchestration of disturbing outside influence on the witnesses."
"A network of organizations, led by former Trump administration officials like Kash Patel and Russell Vought, appears to have identified these witnesses, provided them with financial compensation, and found them employment after they left the FBI," reads the report. "They have a story to tell, and they appear to be using House Republicans to tell it."
For example, Friend said he was given $5,000 in November 2022 by an organization run by Patel, who served as acting chief of staff in the Defense Department under former President Donald Trump. Patel also connected him with the Center for Renewing America, a right-wing think tank where Friend now holds a fellowship.
Friend claimed that the FBI did not follow its own operating procedures in investigations it opened into the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but as Politico reported, he "wilted" when "actually pressed for details and had no firsthand knowledge" of any abuses.
O'Boyle also said he had received financial support from Patel before testifying that FBI agents were pressured to open January 6 cases and keep them open. In his testimony to the committee, he admitted that he was never threatened or retaliated against for closing a case in which he found insufficient evidence.
"At the end of the day, you exercised your judgment, and you weren't—there were no consequences for that?" he was asked.
"As far as I know," O'Boyle replied.
The former agent "does not show a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety," wrote the Democrats. "Rather, this appears to be a situation in which two special agents engaged in dialogue regarding a case process."
The three witnesses have also demonstrated support for numerous conspiracy theories regarding January 6 and Covid-19, with Hill tweeting at various times that the insurrection was "a setup" and that the FBI are "the brown shirt enforcers" of the Democratic Party, and O'Boyle comparing Covid vaccines to the actions of the Reserve Police Battalion 101, a Nazi police force. The witnesses have also questioned the validity of the 2020 election.
"The report shows that the first three witnesses the House majority referred to as 'whistleblowers' have offered little knowledge of broken laws or wrongdoing," said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen. "Instead, they have trafficked in conspiracy theories about the insurrection and even more shockingly, received financial support from close allies to former President Trump. Pay-to-play theatrics have no place in serious oversight."
Gilbert denounced Jordan's conflation of government whistleblowers with former employees who have close ties to Trump and subscribe to anti-Democratic conspiracy theories that members of the Republican Party have promoted for years.
"Legitimate whistleblowers must be protected, and these witnesses are clearly not legitimate," she said. "Whistleblowers are brave employees of conscience who disclose information they think shows violations of law, abuses of authority, or specific dangers to public health and safety. Disagreements with policy or management decisions alone are not protected whistleblowing speech, and this trio of witnesses are not objectively defined whistleblowers."
Whistleblowing, added the Government Accountability Project, is "a matter of promoting truth and justice for the betterment of society"—not partisanship.
"In an attempt to prove their 'weaponization' allegations, Republicans have turned to three individuals who have not only failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing but are also entirely lacking in credibility," said the Democrats in their report. "Committee Democrats thus conclude that Republicans are not running good-faith investigations. Instead, they are using this committee as a political messaging campaign designed 'make sure' that Donald Trump wins in 2024."