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House GOP eyes new committee to probe 'weaponization' of federal government

WASHINGTON — The new House Republican majority plans to create a special committee that could serve as a one-stop shop for investigating perceived wrongdoing by the federal government against conservatives, including former president Donald Trump.

The new panel, structured as a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, is expected to be chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, according to a source familiar with the matter. With subpoena power, it will be tasked with investigating law enforcement agencies as part of a mandate to probe the “weaponization of the federal government.”

Language to establish the panel is tucked inside a House rules package that passed Monday. It will be empowered to probe “the expansive role of Article II authority vested in the Executive Branch to collect information on or otherwise investigate citizens of the United States, including ongoing criminal investigations,” according to a resolution expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday.

The House panel could make Jordan, a Freedom Caucus co-founder who’s poised to chair the larger Judiciary Committee as well, one of the most powerful figures of the new Congress by extending his jurisdiction into areas that the committee doesn’t ordinarily oversee, like intelligence.

With his ultraconservative roots and pro-Trump bent, Jordan is known as an aggressive investigator and has served on politically charged panels like the Benghazi committee, which damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Once a backbencher who had frosty relations with GOP leaders, Jordan has risen through the ranks in a reflection of the conference’s rightward shift. He’s now a key ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“We have a duty to get into these agencies and look at how they have been weaponized to go against the very people they’re supposed to represent, how they have infringed on First Amendment liberties of the American people. And we’re going to do that,” Jordan said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to do it in a way that’s consistent with the Constitution. But we’re going to do it vigorously. We’re going to do it aggressively. Because that’s our job.”

Jordan said he intends to probe “big tech” companies, including Twitter activities exposed by Elon Musk since his acquisition of the company, as well as the FBI and “the political nature of the Justice Department.”

The panel has attracted interest from a host of Republicans and raised eyebrows among House Democrats, who are already discussing at the highest levels of leadership how to respond.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., a Judiciary Committee member, nicknamed the panel “The MAGA Grievance Subcommittee.”

In an interview, he said it foreshadows an “incessant effort” by Republicans “to investigate and pretend to be doing oversight when they’re just trying to obstruct the progress of the administration on behalf of the American people.”

The White House is already pushing back.

“House Republicans continue to focus on launching partisan political stunts driven by the most extreme MAGA members of their caucus instead of joining the President to tackle the issues the American people care about most like inflation,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said of the planned committee.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said he will serve on the new weaponization committee. Members of the committee will be formally named after the House passes the resolution.

“We’ve secured a guarantee that we can go wherever the evidence leads us,” he told Tucker Carlson last week, crediting the conservative Fox News anchor for coming up with the panel idea.

Appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chair of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, said he shouldn’t be excluded from the committee even though he’s a subject of the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks.

“Well, why should I be limited? Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise,” he said “And I would say this, the American people are really, really tired of the persecution and the instruments of federal power being used against them.”

Perry continued: “We’re going to investigate and we need to. We need to make sure that these agencies aren’t running amuck and aren’t out of control, which clearly they are.”

Asked Monday what the committee should focus on, McCarthy told reporters, “I think we should get to the bottom of accountability of what was being used to go after American citizens. I always think accountability and greater information is always helpful.” 

Democrats say it would be dangerous and highly unusual for a member of Congress who’s a subject of a federal investigation to be simultaneously overseeing the DOJ’s probe. They argue that the language of the resolution is so far-reaching it encroaches on the jurisdiction of the Intelligence and Oversight committees, enabling the new committee to investigate not just the FBI and Justice Department but also the CIA, social media companies and a host of private entities involved in data collection of American consumers.

“This thing is so f—ing broad,” said a Democratic aide on the Judiciary Committee. “It’s Benghazi on steroids. It’s crazy.”

The panel will have 13 members — with five recommended by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. For now, Democrats intend to participate, with the aide saying it’s “better to be in the room and suffer through it than not know what’s going on.”

But like other select committees, McCarthy can block certain members from serving on the panel — a power that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi flexed last Congress to prevent certain Republicans, including Jordan, from serving on the Jan. 6 panel.

“I’d like to see it used effectively to bring the oversight that has been missing for the past two years,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a McCarthy critic who ended up voting “present” on his bid for speaker. “No administration should be exempt from accountability and transparency. And, obviously, the previous Democrat majority had no interest or willingness to do that. And so I’m thankful that we’re going to do that and the majority.”

Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, another of the McCarthy holdouts who sought concessions before backing him, praised the new committee and said it will be important when it comes to “holding the Deep State accountable.”

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., blasted the planned new committee, saying it was “designed to inject extremist politics into our justice system and shield the MAGA movement from the legal consequences of their actions.”

“Democrats will fight tooth and nail to prevent Republicans from using taxpayer resources to protect Donald Trump and extremist allies from legal scrutiny,” he said.

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