WASHINGTON — Since last year, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has spoken of the dozens of FBI agents who’d come to House Republicans complaining about an epic betrayal by their leaders in favor of the woke establishment.
Now Jordan chairs a new subcommittee created specifically to showcase those grievances — but it’s not clear they’ll live up to the hype.
In an effort to undercut Jordan, Democrats on the “Weaponization of Government” subcommittee released their own summary and partial transcripts of the committee’s first interviews with three former FBI agents, and the material is embarrassing.
Two of the three agents have embraced a discredited conspiracy theory that the FBI instigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Two of the three recently received cash payments and other help from a Donald Trump loyalist who used to work for the Trump administration. One of them wouldn’t even explain what he’d done to get suspended by the FBI.
And according to Democrats — who released the material because they claimed Republicans were leaking it first — none of the supposed whistleblowers meets the legal definition of a whistleblower.
“These individuals, who put forward a wide range of conspiracy theories, did not present actual evidence of any wrongdoing at the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Stacy Plaskett (D-V.I.), the top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and its weaponization subcommittee, wrote in their 315-page report.
Jordan’s spokesman said it’s “beyond disappointing, but sadly not surprising, that Democrats would leak cherry-picked excerpts of testimony to attack the brave whistleblowers who risked their careers to speak out on abuses at the Justice Department and FBI.”
One of the FBI agents who sat for a closed-door interview with the committee last month is Stephen Friend, who had previously told his story to Senate Republicans. According to Friend’s own version of events, he got suspended after he simply refused to work on any cases related to the Capitol riot.
Friend thought some of the people who stormed the Capitol weren’t guilty and wouldn’t get a fair trial in Washington. He also objected to how the FBI’s Washington field office assigned Jan. 6 cases to regional offices and claimed the FBI improperly deployed tactical teams against rioters.
But according to the partial transcript of his committee interview, Friend essentially admitted last month that SWAT raids were warranted against the potentially armed suspects in question.
“The individuals that you expressed concern about for [a SWAT raid last year], were you aware of any factors that would counsel in favor of a SWAT team?” the committee asked.
“I think being a gun owner meets that matrix, and those individuals were,” Friend said.
Democrats’ report also reveals that Friend’s complaint about case assignments had been investigated by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its Office of the General Counsel, and both found it meritless.
The document highlights the fact that Friend and George Hill, another FBI agent who talked to the committee, have suggested in public statements that a man named Ray Epps helped instigate the attack on the Capitol as an undercover FBI agent.
“Happy Anniversary Ray Epps, from your friends in The Deep State,” Hill wrote in a Jan. 6, 2023, tweet that has since been deleted. “Job well done!”
The theory is based almost entirely on video snippets showing Epps talking about going inside the Capitol and saying something to a man who then fought police. It’s thin evidence for an extraordinary claim to begin with, but Epps, a roofing contractor and Trump supporter in Arizona, repeatedly told investigators last year, under penalty of perjury, that he wasn’t acting as an FBI informant or under the direction of any law enforcement agency.
Democrats said another suspended FBI agent, Garrett O’Boyle, wouldn’t tell them why he’d been suspended, except to say his suspension notice claimed “an unidentified person … made an allegation that [he] had been making unprotected disclosures to the media.” Democrats’ report says O’Boyle did share more than 50 documents with the committee’s Republicans, however.
Since getting suspended and sharing their stories with Republicans, both O’Boyle and Friend told the committee they received cash payments from Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official who now operates as a Republican fundraiser. Friend said Patel also hooked him up with a new job at the Center for Renewing America, a nonprofit helmed by former Trump budget director Russell Vought.
The Democrats wrote that “there is a strong likelihood that Kash Patel is encouraging the witnesses to continue pursuing their meritless claims, and in fact is using them to help propel his vendetta against the FBI, Justice Department, and Biden administration on behalf of himself and President Trump.”
In a series of public Twitter messages on Friday, Friend seemingly welcomed scrutiny of his case.
HuffPost asked Friend if the DOJ’s inspector general and special counsel hadn’t already investigated his claims, but he didn’t respond.