The first hearing of the new House subcommittee looking into the alleged weaponization of the federal government was placed on Thursday.
The hearing included a long list of Republican criticisms of Democrats, the government, and Big Tech that have appeared frequently in conservative media over the past few years, from allegations of censorship of the right to cancel culture to a Department of Justice memo on threats against school boards to a new legal dispute over which party in 2016 was the victim of Russian disinformation.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, announced that the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government would conduct additional public hearings and record transcripts of interviews with experts, government officials, journalists, FBI whistleblowers, and “Americans who their government has targeted.” By January 2, 2025, the team must deliver a final report on its findings to the House. Additionally, according to Jordan, the panel would suggest legislation “that will assist protect the American people.”
Democrats and Republicans primarily questioned sympathetic witnesses favorably during the political hearing to support their positions. Democrats claimed that the committee itself was an example of improper weaponization of government, continuing a pattern started under former President Donald Trump and his administration of using the levers of power to target political opponents. Republicans claimed that the government had been unfairly weaponized against conservatives.
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Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the only other Democrat invited to testify as a witness on Thursday, claimed that “millions of Americans already fear that weaponization is the right name for this special subcommittee — not because weaponization of the government is its target but because weaponization of the government is its purpose.”
The members heard two panels—one with current and past MPs and the other with outside witnesses. Raskin was on the first panel, featuring Republicans Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a former Democratic Party member who now frequently appears on Fox News as an independent. They each had a 10-minute speaking time during which they criticized the Justice Department, social media platforms, and Democrats in Congress.
The FBI, the partisan media, and some of my Democratic colleagues have interfered with and undermined legitimate congressional investigations more than I’ve ever seen. I’ve run countless studies in the last few years, said Grassley.
American citizens no longer feel comfortable expressing their opinions, according to Gabbard, who also claimed that “individuals in our government, often working through their arms in the mainstream media and big tech… get to decide what is true and what is false.”
The notion that we must accept what the government or those in positions of authority tell us is true goes against the very essence of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, Gabbard later added.
The weaponization subcommittee’s formal mandate is to look into how the executive branch gathers data on and conducts investigations into American citizens, “including ongoing criminal investigations.” Hence, it will likely look into the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in August. It has the authority to subpoena witnesses and is a part of the House Judiciary Committee, which Jordan also leads.
The Justice Department, including the FBI, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the IRS, and Big Tech are allegedly taking steps to “suppress information and censor Americans,” Jordan said in his opening statement on Thursday. He said the committee would look into these “concerns,” which he claims Americans have.
In her opening remarks on Thursday, the top Democrat on the panel Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, said she is “deeply concerned” about the use of the select subcommittee “to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories, and advance an extreme agenda that risks undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy.”
Plaskett forewarned that some Republicans on the panel’s “dangerous rhetoric and unfounded charges against the Justice Department and FBI” damage their work. She brought up the surge in violent threats against federal law enforcement, as did several other Democratic lawmakers.
Democratic Party members will “fight” any efforts by the committee “to undermine current lawful investigations into President Trump or any other President and those inside his orbit,” according to Plaskett, a former prosecutor who previously served as the Trump impeachment campaign manager.
The second panel of witnesses included Elliot Williams, a CNN legal analyst and a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department under the Obama administration. Thomas Baker and Nicole Parker, two former FBI agents, also criticized the bureau and claimed social media censorship of conservatives. Jonathan Turley, a Fox News contributor and law professor at George Washington University, also criticized the FBI.