Jordan’s ‘weaponization’ panel is all conclusions, no evidence
For the past year, America has heard ad nauseum from conservative Republicans that a liberal “Deep State” is trying to cancel out conservatives and their viewpoints — both in and out of government; that scheming elites have weaponized the state to undermine conservative principles, and thus, freedom in America. But, not to worry — Republicans would save the day, because swarms of “whistleblowers,” most notably from the FBI, are coming forward with evidence to bear witness to the conspiracy.
Since Feb. 8, it has been “Showtime.” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other far-right allies have manned the House committees and weaponized them against a phantom, the mythical Deep State. The results have been a steady serving of — as one Fox News anchor put it — ‘nothingburgers.’
The “whistleblowers” aren’t really whistleblowers; rather, they’re apparently aggrieved, card-carrying members of the MAGA-verse. The expert witnesses have had little relevant expertise to be convincing. Their documentation — so far — is flimsy.
They look rudderless.
The Republicans are not delivering as promised because they can’t. In five short weeks, these committees are already butting heads against a relentless, powerful force called reality. This is what happens when you test a theory in real time, without persuasive evidence, on live television — and come up not only short, but miles away from the prior grandiose promises.
With all the Republicans’ hype and bluster of the previous year, America’s expectations were sky-high, bracing for the bombshell evidence. As a former practitioner of congressional oversight of the FBI, I include myself in that category.
What has come instead is a tsunami of grievances from cranky old senators and faux “whistleblowers,” and accusations galore — unattached to any evidence — from Republican members themselves.
After Jordan’s first hearing on Feb. 9, the headlines told the story. New York Times: “Investigating ‘Weaponization’ of Government, G.O.P. Airs Old Grievances.” NBC News: “House committee on ‘weaponization’ of government kicks off with airing of grievances.” AP: “GOP opens ‘weaponization’ probe with sweeping claims of bias.”
There were no headlines indicating new evidentiary findings — because there weren’t any.
The only relevant question for Jordan and his allies was could this failed first impression be rejuvenated?
Then, on March 2, the subcommittee’s minority issued a bombshell 300-page report of its own, entitled “GOP Witnesses: What Their Disclosures Indicate About the State of the Republican Investigations.” The report shreds the credibility of the only witnesses — three former FBI agents — who had spoken privately to the subcommittee. The report’s findings, if not successfully challenged by Republicans, threaten to derail the panel’s efforts before they have even begun.
Those findings depict a portrait not of unassailable agent witnesses in otherwise good standing with the bureau offering evidence of probative value of a Deep State and a politicized bureau, but rather of former agents with questionable issues giving little, if any, firsthand accounts, yet who espouse conspiracies and have ties to operatives in Trumpworld with political agendas — some of whom have even received financial support from Trump allies. The report has clearly set the Republicans back on their heels.
Again, next-day headlines covering the report tell the story. CNN: “Jim Jordan’s first FBI whistleblowers face scrutiny from skeptical Democrats.” The New York Times: “G.O.P. Witnesses, Paid by Trump Ally, Embraced Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theories.” Newsweek: “Jim Jordan’s Credibility Questioned Over Whistleblowers’ Testimony.” Rolling Stone: “Inside Jim Jordan’s Disastrous Search for a ‘Deep State’ Whistleblower.”
The reviews weren’t just yawners or duds — they were savage.
The report did instant and major credibility damage to Jordan’s claim that “dozens and dozens” of brave, nonpartisan whistleblowers were coming forward to squeal about just how politicized the FBI is.
The real damage, however, has been inflicted by the Republicans themselves — for over-promising and under-delivering.
At a minimum, they had better do a more thorough job of vetting the others of their “dozens” of “whistleblowers” before they give testimony so they can withstand the likely grueling cross-examinations from the likes of former prosecutor Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.). The ranks of “dozens” of potential FBI “whistleblowers” still willing to come forward have likely diminished considerably. It’s called the weaponization of cross-examination.
In response, one committee Republican has already come up with a solution to answering the report‘s damaging criticisms. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has called for removing Democrats from the subcommittee’s investigation and not allowing them to sit in on the depositions. He charges that the Democrats are getting “in the way of thorough, rigorous oversight.”
A former Senate Republican staffer, Mike Davis, offered much less laughable advice, though equally ineffective: Davis says Jordan is over-extended and under-staffed. He needs to focus more, plan better, marshal his resources more efficiently — including having more staff meetings, more hearings and more subpoenas, faster.
This remedy presupposes there is substance to be found.
One would expect, though, that with all the allegations being tossed around, the evidence at hand could speak for itself.
The Republicans’ predicament is the public is becoming increasingly skeptical about Chicken Little-style fearmongering. Moreover, the current effort stands in sharp contrast to the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s work, which was generally viewed as a major success, both in credibility and persuasion of public sentiment.
The Jan. 6 Committee executed its mission in relatively lightning-quick time — and even ran circles around the Justice Department. And the mostly-Democratic committee used all Republican witnesses, no less. That’s because, in my experience, when the truth is called upon in major crises in Washington, people in the bowels of democracy surface. There are many more people loyal to the truth than to their political bosses.
The newly weaponized Republican committees are slowly learning that time and reality are not on the side of phantom seekers, only truth tellers.
Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.