Jim Jordan has found no "weaponization" of government — and no actual whistleblowers

As Capitol Hill investigators who have worked for both parties, we see Jordan's far-right snipe hunt as a mockery

Published March 14, 2023 9:34AM (EDT)

With a poster of a New York Post front page story about Hunter Biden’s emails on display, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) listens during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on February 8, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
With a poster of a New York Post front page story about Hunter Biden’s emails on display, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) listens during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on February 8, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The new Republican House majority has promised historic oversight, anchored by Rep. Jim Jordan's subcommittee hunting for "whistleblowers" on the supposed "weaponization" of government. So far, Jordan's efforts have been a bust — he's failed to produce a single true whistleblower.

To the three of us — veterans of prior Capitol Hill investigations who have worked for Republicans and Democrats on the Church Committee, the first Trump impeachment and the Jan. 6 select committee — Jordan's whole "weaponization"  effort is an embarrassment. There is a right way to do oversight and to work with real whistleblowers, and this isn't it.

In Jordan's telling, the Department of Justice and the FBI are targeting ordinary Americans solely because they hold conservative political beliefs.  He claims that "dozens and dozens of whistleblowers" have come forward to expose government malfeasance. 

But neither weaponization nor whistleblowers were to be found last Thursday, when the subcommittee held its second hearing, focusing on the "Twitter Files." Jordan returned to one of his favorite complaints: Twitter's decision to suppress a New York Post story about Hunter Biden's laptop for 48 hours in mid-October 2020. But Twitter's employees have previously testified that the FBI did not tell them to take it down. Jordan's witnesses during the hearing — Matt Taibbi (a journalist) and Michael Shellenberger (an author) — did not offer any evidence to contradict that, and moreover are not whistleblowers. They received files from Twitter's new management highlighting what they claimed was unjust censorship. But Americans are still waiting to hear from a true government insider on this score. 

The prior "weaponization" subcommittee hearing on Feb. 9 was also a sprawling, disconnected dud. No whistleblowers testified there either. Where are Jordan's witnesses with inside knowledge of the government's bad acts?   

The Democrats serving on Jordan's subcommittee have provided an answer. Three witnesses — two former FBI special agents and a retired FBI intelligence analyst — have been interviewed behind closed doors. None of them qualifies as a government whistleblower either, and none has claimed credible knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing. Instead, they have criticized the FBI for investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection

One of the witnesses, former FBI intelligence analyst George Hill, apparently raised concerns over a financial institution providing law enforcement officials with evidence that was potentially relevant to the Jan. 6 investigation. It is not clear why this would be problematic. Financial records are routinely utilized in criminal investigations, and Hill reportedly never actually used or even looked at the underlying evidence himself. Furthermore, according to Hill, the FBI apparently didn't even take any action based on this evidence

Hill has also claimed that Jan. 6 was "a set up" and part of "a larger #Democrat plan using their enforcement arm, the #FBI." This accusation, without a shred of evidence, hardly helps his credibility — or Jordan's.

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A second witness, former special agent Garret O'Boyle, was apparently asked by his higher-ups "to consider taking a particular investigative step with respect to a Jan. 6 matter," declined, and "suffered no professional repercussions" as a result. It is hard to see how this is scandalous.

Stephen Friend, a third former FBI man, claimed that the Bureau deviated from the practices outlined in its "internal operations manual" while investigating hundreds of Jan. 6-related cases. Friend objected to the FBI using a SWAT team to arrest some of the members of a Three Percenter militia group, even though those individuals were known "to be armed and dangerous" and the group believes the U.S. government should be overthrown. Again, there is no scandal here.  

Jordan claims that his efforts are modeled after the ground-breaking Church Committee, led by the late Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. One of us (Michel) served as counsel on that bipartisan body. 

Whistleblowers have played an important role in uncovering genuine executive branch abuses, including the Ukraine scandal that led to Donald Trump's first impeachment.

But Jim Jordan and his witnesses are not exposing real wrongdoing by government agencies. Instead, Jordan and the committee majority seek to justify the far right's imaginary grievances and conspiracy theories. 

Rep. Jim Jordan claims that "dozens and dozens of whistleblowers" have come forward to expose government malfeasance. After two hearings, he has yet to produce even one.

The subpoenas issued by the subcommittee recently, calling on members of the National School Board Association and the former head of Homeland Security's Disinformation Board, exemplify Jordan's abuse of power. Jordan is attempting to show that the FBI's "special threat" tag regarding threats against school board members, along with the creation of a Disinformation Board, are examples of the government targeting conservative speech. Instead they only reveal how readily he abuses his subpoena power. 

Considering who Jordan and his congressional allies are, we should not be surprised. Democrats on the subcommittee warn in a minority staff report that "nearly all of the Republicans involved in" one of the subcommittee's investigations —  "the witnesses, some of the Members, and certainly their outside operators — are tied together by the attacks of January 6, 2021." As documented in the Jan. 6 select committee's final report, Jordan was a "significant player" in then-President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Some of the "outside operators" assisting Jordan belong to the Center for Renewing America. One of that group's members is Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was central to Trump's effort to corruptly abuse the DOJ's power to steal the presidency. According to Democratic members of the "weaponization" subcommittee, some of the witnesses on deck may have been actual participants in the Jan. 6 riot.  

Real whistleblowers play a crucial role in oversight efforts. They are heroes for doing so in light of the risks they face when they expose abuses of power. But Jordan and his colleagues risk making a mockery of whistleblower status. Their witnesses aren't legally recognized whistleblowers, and the "weaponization" subcommittee isn't genuine oversight.

By Paul Michel

Paul Michel served as deputy district attorney for investigations in Philadelphia, assistant Watergate special prosecutor, Church Committee assistant counsel, Justice Department Koreagate prosecutor, associate deputy attorney general, counsel to Sen. Arlen Specter and circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, before retiring in 2010.

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By Tom Joscelyn

Tom Joscelyn is a former senior professional staff member on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and has testified before Congress on more than 20 occasions.

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By Norman Eisen

Norman Eisen served as White House ethics czar and ambassador to the Czech Republic under President Barack Obama, then as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee in 2019–20, including during the first impeachment and trial of President Donald Trump.

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Commentary Congressional Committees Donald Trump Fbi Jim Jordan Republicans Whistleblowers