Rep. Jim Jordan’s offensive against federal law enforcement began in earnest over the summer. The Ohio Republican claimed in August, for example, that he had secret sources inside the FBI, and as luck would have it, those sources confirmed his conspiracy theories. That was awfully nice of them.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Jordan and his Capitol Hill cohorts have taken this offensive to the next level with the release of something resembling a report. NBC News noted this morning:
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee released a massive report Friday lashing out at the FBI and Department of Justice. The 1,050-page report attacked the FBI as “broken” because of its “politicized bureaucracy.” The report specifically mentioned the Justice Department’s investigations of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the current probe into documents found at [Mar-a-Lago].
To be sure, the detail we’re supposed to notice is the length of the document. Ordinarily, when congressional committees or groups of lawmakers release reports, they don’t see the need to emphasize the number of pages, but the headline on the press statement from the GOP lawmakers this morning read, “Republicans Release 1,000 Page Report on FBI & DOJ Politicization.”
The Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee also emphasized the number of pages in the report through social media.
Obviously, the public is supposed to see the number of pages as evidence of merit. “Well, Judiciary Committee Republicans must’ve found a ton of incriminating information,” Americans are apparently expected to say. “After all, just look at all of those pages!”
There is, however, a small problem. As Talking Points Memo explained, “All but about 50 pages of the 1,050-page report are old letters Republicans already sent to the Biden administration. In one instance, they attached a five-page letter they’d previously sent to all U.S. attorneys 93 times.”
In other words, before we even consider the contents of the report, there’s a glaring problem with the wildly misleading presentation: Jordan & Co. want us to be impressed with the length of the document, brushing past the fact that roughly 95% of the report is filler.
This was an unnecessary tactical error: The GOP lawmakers and committee staff could’ve just as easily released a 50-page document. It’s not as if the political world would’ve dismissed it as too short. Instead, by making such a fuss about the “1,000-page report,” the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee effectively signaled that they just don’t have much to substantiate their claims.
All of which leads us to the next problem. From TPM’s reporting:
The other 50 pages are a who’s who of Fox News-flavored grievances and conspiracy theories, dinging the FBI for everything from the “unprecedented raid” of Mar-a-Lago to going easy on Hunter Biden to supposedly targeting parents for resisting “a far-left educational curriculum” to inflating domestic violent extremism stats. Many of their gripes and allegations are old — that Hillary Clinton was given “kid-glove treatment” in comparison to Donald Trump — and animated by perpetual, ongoing right-wing complaints, including that “big tech” is censoring conservative viewpoints.
If Jordan and his colleagues were right, and federal law enforcement had been politicized, there should be plenty of evidence to substantiate the allegations. The fact that GOP lawmakers and staffers are repackaging stale nonsense four days ahead of Election Day is intended to be devastating, but it’s actually just pitiful.
The "big-stack-of-paper strategy" nearly always backfires. Today is no exception.
Even the many references to “whistleblowers” are dubious. As we’ve discussed, there is a process in place for FBI employees to report institutional wrongdoing, including the option of reaching out to the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office. There’s also a formal process in place for whistleblowers throughout the executive branch.
At this point, however, Jordan appears to be describing something more informal: A group of supposed FBI employees, we’re being asked to believe, quietly circumvented official channels, went to a relatively powerless member of the House minority, and confirmed his party’s conspiracy theories about federal law enforcement.
He and his team then threw together a pre-election political document padded to give the appearance of weightiness.
Maybe the GOP base will be impressed. Perhaps conservative media outlets will pretend to take this seriously for a while. Some in the party will probably be able to squeeze a few fundraising appeals out of this.
But that doesn't make the underlying claims true.
Perhaps most important of all is Jordan’s unfortunate motivation behind the effort. Some of his Republican allies allegedly crossed legal lines, and as a consequence, they’re now facing criminal investigations. As the far-right Ohioan sees it, this, in and of itself, is proof of law enforcement abuses — an argument he’ll likely spend the next two years pushing as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee if voters put the House in GOP hands.
His position does not deserve to be taken seriously. Jordan doesn’t appear to care.
Update: A fascinating catch from a Washington Post analysis: "Included were pages with nothing but signatures on the letters: There were more than seven times as many pages that had nothing of substance on them except signatures than there were pages in the report."