A former Richard Nixon Watergate lawyer called the scope of the committee’s intentions “unprecedented.” And in fact, the committee’s scope expanded dramatically during Kevin McCarthy’s protracted battle to become speaker of the House as he gave away more and more to his Republican opponents.
The original plan didn’t include the part about ongoing criminal investigations and only would have allowed the committee to look at the FBI, DOJ, and the Department of Homeland Security. Now, the bill setting up the committee would allow it to investigate any part of the executive branch relating to how agencies “collect, compile, analyze, use, or disseminate information about citizens of the United States.” That could be almost anything, from those criminal investigations to labor statistics or educational data. Which means that every federal agency will have to be worried about what conspiracy theory tangentially relating to them will show up on Fox News or OAN at a moment when Jordan or Massie or Bishop is watching.
But one thing we know Republicans will use the committee to do is attack the FBI. “We’re going to get into what’s going on at the FBI,” Jordan pledged Sunday on Fox News. The plan, of course, is to paint any investigation involving any Republican as partisan and illegitimate—to discredit efforts to find out the full details of Trump’s coup attempt or Trump’s Mar-a-Lago stash of classified documents or anything else that poses a risk to the next Republican coup attempt.
Former House General Counsel Stan Brand, who represented Trump loyalist Dan Scavino and other witnesses before the Jan. 6 committee, told Politico he had raised concerns about that committee’s proximity to ongoing criminal investigations, and “Now, the Republicans plan to take this one step further and actually overtly interfere … by investigating ‘open’ criminal cases.” He described the new committee as “a dangerous further erosion in the wall between congressional oversight and law enforcement.” Again, this is someone who represented Dan Scavino.
To put it in law-professor-ese, “[T]he committee has been given a ridiculously broad remit that, when invoked for partisan gain—as one can confidently predict—will surely lead to extensive conflict with the Justice Department and the president,” Daniel Richman, the Columbia Law professor known for having helped former FBI director James Comey leak his memos about conversations with Trump, told Politico.
Democrats will participate in the committee, they say, rather than following in the footsteps of Republicans, who withdrew from the Jan. 6 committee in a snit after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks as members. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, will be a member, and Democrats may choose up to another five members.
“You’ll see, even if we disagree with the subjects and the agenda, I think you’re gonna see us engage and tell the American public exactly what Republicans would try to do behind closed doors without us,” Rep. Pete Aguilar said. As they should—the public needs to have a continuing look at what Republican “governance” means.
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