Since the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump has been relentless in attacking the bureau. In recent weeks, the former president has lashed out wildly at the FBI and its agents, calling them “corrupt,” accusing them of “atrocities,” and telling his followers that the federal law enforcement officials are “mobsters,” “vicious monsters” and a “real threat to democracy.”
Trump’s Republican allies haven’t been quite this hysterical, but they’ve nevertheless been unsubtle in their criticisms of the FBI, falsely accusing the bureau of being politicized, peddling odd conspiracy theories and, in some instances, even calling for the agency to be defunded by Congress.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went so far as to warn Fox News viewers in August of a “cabal” within the FBI that she believes has politicized the agency’s work.
The GOP’s rhetorical push has faded a bit, but Politico reported that Republicans are still planning to make the FBI’s life “as difficult as possible next year if they win back the majority.”
GOP lawmakers are preparing a buffet of investigations aimed at touching every aspect of the agency’s decision-making, even floating a select committee to probe how the bureau handled the recovery of classified documents kept at Donald Trump’s Florida estate. That’s on top of talk of likely doomed-to-fail efforts by conservatives to dramatically curb the FBI’s reach and funding while other baked-in fights, like renewing the bureau’s surveillance permissions, wait in the wings.
Part of what makes this so odd is the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has long been one of the single most conservative institutions in the federal government. To see Republicans go after the FBI is to see a stark reminder of just how radical the party’s politics has become.
But just as notable is the nature of the GOP’s pushback against the bureau. When House Republican leaders unveiled their “Commitment to America” blueprint last week, it included a section on government accountability that claimed there are “more than 14 whistleblowers” who have “come forward to publicly raise concerns about the FBI’s politicization.”
This was, to be sure, an interesting allegation. Whether these whistleblowers exist, however, is something of an open question.
As regular readers might recall, it was a couple of months ago when Republican Rep. Jim Jordan told Fox News, “Fourteen FBI agents have come to our office as whistleblowers, and they are good people. There are lots of good people in the FBI. It’s the top that is the problem. Some of these good agents are coming to us, telling us what is baloney, what’s going on — the political nature now of the Justice Department, God bless them for doing it.”
To hear the Ohioan tell it, Republicans effectively caught a lucky break: They were accusing the FBI, the federal government’s most politically conservative agency, of being biased against Republicans, and 14 insiders at the bureau came along to tell Jordan and his colleagues how right they were.
It’s possible that there are real whistleblowers who are aware of actual wrongdoing at the FBI, and all of this will lead to consequential revelations about federal law enforcement. It’s also possible that Jordan, whose track record as a serious lawmaker does not exist, has fallen for dubious claims from charlatans. Or perhaps he made all of this up.
While we wait for answers on this front, let’s not forget that there is a process in place for FBI employees to report 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 have described 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 the GOP’s conspiracy theories about federal law enforcement.
And now the claims have worked their way into the party’s “Commitment to America” rollout, as Republicans prepare multiple investigations targeting the FBI. Watch this space.