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Why the Republicans’ new ‘weaponization’ committee matters

Many GOP investigations will be easily ignored. The Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government is qualitatively different.


The new House Republican majority realizes that it’s working alongside a Democratic-led Senate and a Democratic White House, severely limiting its legislative prospects. With this in mind, GOP lawmakers intend to spend much of their next two years launching a series of investigations into all kinds of conservative hobbyhorses.

We’ll see hearings about Hunter Biden. And the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. And Dr. Anthony Fauci. And more Hunter Biden. And the origins of Covid. And Big Tech. And did I mention Hunter Biden?

Much of these attempts at legislative oversight will be tiresome and inconsequential. Republicans will generate some headlines, aligned media outlets will be delighted, and an avalanche of fundraising appeals will no doubt reach conservatives’ inboxes nationwide. But the underlying GOP conspiracy theories are difficult to take seriously, and the associated investigations are unlikely to produce anything of great interest. The shows will be forgettable.

There is, however, a notable exception. The New York Times reported:

A divided House voted on Tuesday to launch a wide-ranging investigation into federal law enforcement and national security agencies, as Republicans promised to use their new power in Congress to scrutinize what they said was a concerted effort by the government to silence and punish conservatives at all levels, from protesters at school board meetings to former President Donald J. Trump.

The special committee was approved yesterday on a 221-211 vote, which predictably fell along partisan lines. The panel, to be formally called the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, will be chaired by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan.

This is the same far-right Ohioan who was described as a “political terrorist“ by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Democrats plan to be part of the committee — filling 5 of the panel’s 13 slots — though they’ll have no real influence over its direction.

It’s tempting to simply roll one’s eyes at such an endeavor. After all, in reality, there has been no “concerted effort by the government to silence and punish conservatives,” and any time Republicans have tried to point to ostensible proof of the phenomenon, their baseless claims have been quickly and easily discredited.

In other words, a committee committed to finding evidence of an imagined scourge can spin its wheels for months, and waste all kinds of resources, but it won’t — and can’t — succeed in exposing a problem that doesn’t exist.

So why is it a problem? Because of its stated purview.

The resolution explicitly says the panel will have the power to examine “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.”

The Times’ report added that the Justice Department “has traditionally resisted making information about open criminal investigations available to Congress, suggesting that legal and political fights over subpoenas and executive privilege are most likely looming.”

Given that Jordan is all but certain to examine the criminal investigations into Trump, this seems likely to get quite messy: What happens when the legislative branch demands confidential information from the executive branch about ongoing cases surrounding a corrupt former president who enjoys the loyalty of the congressional investigators? If the matter is adjudicated, how might Trump-appointed jurists rule?

Complicating matters is the breathtaking scope of the probe. A Politico report added that the Jordan-led committee will be able to “look into any government agency or program that it views as suspect, including the FBI, IRS and the intelligence community.”

In other words, the House won't just have oversight over intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, it will also now have a powerful special committee pursuing conspiracy theories related to intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, complete with unique access to highly sensitive information.

A Democratic aide on the Judiciary Committee told NBC News, “This thing is so f---ing broad. It’s Benghazi on steroids. It’s crazy.”

It’ll be easy to shrug off many of the House Republicans’ investigations. This one, however, is far more serious.