House Republicans want subcommittee to investigate the government

House Republicans want subcommittee to investigate the government

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The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on a GOP resolution to create a select subcommittee that Republicans say will launch a broad examination of the agencies and people who investigated Donald Trump in what Democrats describe as an unprecedented breach of protocol for criminal investigations and national security issues. .

The subcommittee would be authorized to investigate any federal agency that collects information about Americans, even in cases of an ongoing criminal investigation — a departure from the Justice Department’s longstanding practice of not releasing information about ongoing investigations.

The subcommittee, which will be placed under the Judiciary Committee and led by that panel’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is expected to have similar resources to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol — a concession drawn last week by GOP leaders from critics of the hard line of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in exchange for the votes needed to make him the new chairman.

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The broad resolution also explicitly authorizes the select committee to request access to highly classified information provided by intelligence agencies to the House Intelligence Committee. Members of that panel are often briefed on extremely sensitive information with content that, if widely disseminated, could harm national security and endanger the lives of U.S. intelligence officers and their assets.

“The mandate is whatever Jim Jordan wants to do,” said a congressional investigator who works on surveillance issues and who, like others in this report, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations and plans.

Republicans, who have accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of abusing investigative powers to target conservatives, have compared the new committee to the Senate Church Committee formed by Democrats in 1975 to investigate civil liberties abuses by intelligence agencies. . Democrats have countered that the committee was born out of a grudge match over the FBI’s investigation of one person: Trump.

“Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy claim to be investigating the weaponization of the federal government, when, in fact, this newly elected subcommittee is the weapon itself,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. a statement. “It was specifically designed to inject extremist politics into our justice system and to protect the MAGA movement from the legal consequences of their actions. In order to become Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy sold out our democracy by giving the power-hungry Jimmy the power to call and a green light to settle political scores under the false pretense of rooting out conservative bias.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the proposal.

GOP revives rule allowing lawmakers to target federal agencies, staff

While the resolution creating the subcommittee is ambitious — alarming to Democrats, who see the panel as a political attack machine masquerading as an oversight body — how it will work in practice remains to be seen.

The Justice Department has sometimes clashed with congressional committees over what information should or should not be shared with Congress, including during the Trump administration, when Jordan and others accused the Justice Department of unfairly targeting the president.

Such fights can drag on for months and occasionally erupt into uglier confrontations, as when the GOP-controlled House in 2012 voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over unsatisfied Republican requests for documents. of the Department of Justice.

As some of the panel’s expected members set the stage for potential confrontations with the Biden administration, some Democrats and intelligence officials are already expressing concern about the chilling effect the Republican effort could have on ongoing investigations.

Some Republicans, for example, have already expressed skepticism about reauthorizing one of the government’s intelligence-gathering crown jewels: Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expires later this year. It’s possible that Republicans could hold the program hostage if the Justice Department and other relevant agencies refuse to respond to the subcommittee’s demands, though such threats have proved futile in the past.

The new panel will consist of eight Republicans and five Democrats, and unlike other committees, subcommittee members do not have to serve on the Judiciary Committee to be appointed. Democrats are not planning to boycott the committee, according to people familiar with the matter, as McCarthy did when he withdrew his election to serve on the House panel on Jan. 6. It is also possible that some lawmakers who are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice could participate in the review of federal investigations.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), whose phone was tapped as part of a Justice Department investigation into the use of illegal voters in efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, refused to back down from the seat likely to the subcommittee, telling ABC News over the weekend that being the subject of an investigation should not be disqualifying.

“Why should I be limited, why should anyone be limited, just because someone made an accusation? “Everyone in America is innocent until proven guilty,” Perry said. “I would say this: The American people are really, really tired of the persecution and the instruments of federal power being used against them.”

Democrats also predict the new panel will strain relations between the intelligence agencies and Congress, due to concerns about political battles over classified information.

Congressional investigators predict the subcommittee will need to hire a team of outside parties to handle a looming fight over Congress’s oversight authority that could end up in the Supreme Court.

“There are already regulations and grand jury rules that would prevent the Justice Department from complying with subpoenas related to ongoing investigations — like the Jan. 6 investigation — but Jordan will likely say it’s authorized by Congress, so that they will end up in court.” a second congressional investigator said. “This isn’t going to end anytime soon.”

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