POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Jim Jordan’s FBI whistleblowers to testify publicly before Congress

May 18, 2023, 7:38 AM | Updated: 9:25 am

FILE - Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on C...

FILE - Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 9, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Originally Published: 18 MAY 23 07:54 ET
Updated: 18 MAY 23 07:59 ET

Three self-described FBI whistleblowers who are key to the Republican narrative that the FBI is weaponized against conservatives will testify in a House hearing on Thursday, the latest escalation of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan’s investigation into allegations of discrimination and bias within the FBI.

The hearing comes one day after the FBI said it revoked the security clearances of three agents who either attended the January 6 2021, riot at the US Capitol or espoused alternate theories about the Capitol attack, according to a letter the FBI sent the subcommittee on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

At least two of those agents – Marcus Allen and Steve Friend – are among the individuals testifying before the panel on Thursday.

Jordan, an Ohio Republican, has long touted the allegations of what he claims are “dozens” of whistleblowers who serve as the basis for his committee’s assertions that the FBI and Justice Department have become increasingly politicized in recent years. But the first individuals who sat for closed-door interviews with Jordan’s subcommittee earlier this year, including two of the whistleblowers who will appear publicly at a hearing Thursday, became an early flashpoint in the panel’s investigation, with Democrats raising questions about their legitimacy as whistleblowers and the credibility of their testimony.

“We’re looking forward to having these whistleblowers in public for the first time,” Jordan told CNN. “We’re going to let them tell their story, because they have definitely been retaliated against, and in some cases it’s really bad.”

The hearing comes as House Republicans look to ramp up pressure on the FBI executive assistant director of human resources, Jennifer Leigh Moore, after her first voluntary interview, according to a letter provided exclusively to CNN.

Republicans have claimed that Moore was part of a “purge” of FBI employees with conservative views and that issuing her a subpoena is justified because she refused to answer questions in her first interview with the panel. According to an FBI letter obtained by CNN, Moore offered to appear for an interview a day before the hearing – when she could share more information about specific cases – and the committee opted not to proceed with the follow-up interview.

Moore also shared that she has the security clearances of approximately 38,000 employees under her purview and only 32 are currently on suspension, according to an excerpt of her transcript provided exclusively to CNN. Moore said roughly 50 security incidents come in a week, which has been “pretty much” standard in recent years.

The hearing is also an opportunity for Republicans to spotlight an issue their base cares about.

GOP Rep. Mike Johnson, who serves on the panel, says his constituents ask him “all the time” why he can’t do more to address what they see as the politicization of the federal government.

“I explain every day when I’m back home, I am just a member of Congress,” he told CNN. “We only have the majority in one House of Congress. I don’t have the ability to indict anyone, to arrest them or put them on trial or court. What I do have a responsibility is oversight, and putting these facts on display and putting these issues on trial in the court of public opinion.”

The four witnesses

Allen, an FBI staff operations specialist, had his security clearance suspended in January 2022 after voicing support for the January 6, 2021, insurrection of the US Capitol, according to a copy of the suspension letter sent to Allen and obtained by CNN.

“The Security Division has learned you have espoused conspiratorial views both orally and in writing and promoted unreliable information which indicates support for the events of January 6th,” the letter reads. “These allegations raise sufficient concerns about your allegiance to the United States and your judgment to warrant a suspension of your clearance pending further investigation.”

Allen has filed a lawsuit against FBI Director Christopher Wray claiming that the agency has violated his constitutional rights and has falsely accused him of holding “conspiratorial views.”

The FBI officially revoked Allen’s security clearance on May 3 and listed a variety of reasons for doing so, including a September 29, 2021, email in which Allen called on FBI officials to exercise “extreme caution and discretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events of” January 6, according to a copy of the letter.

In revoking his security clearance, the FBI said its investigation showed Allen had “questionable judgment, unreliability, and unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations,” indicating that he could not properly safeguard classified or sensitive information.”

President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton, whose group filed a lawsuit on Allen’s behalf, said in a statement to CNN, “Mr. Allen was a top employee of the FBI. And he was punished because he was doing his job. And I think Americans are going to see an American hero who was just trying to do the right thing and got his head handed to him.”

Friend, a former FBI agent working out of Florida, had his security clearance suspended in September 2022 for objecting to using a SWAT team to arrest a subject whom the FBI said was at the Capitol illegally on January 6. Friend, in a previous interview with CNN, said the force was unnecessary against an individual who had committed a misdemeanor offense.

As CNN previously reported, Friend filed a whistleblower complaint to the Justice Department inspector general and a claim with the US Office of Special Counsel following his suspension, the function of which is to protect federal employees making whistleblower complaints. His claims were eventually rejected by both entities.

Friend had his security clearance revoked by the FBI on May 16, according to the letter obtained by CNN. In explaining its decision, the FBI revealed that Friend “entered FBI space and downloaded documents from FBI computer systems to an unauthorized removable flash drive” on September 3, 2022.

Friend also participated in “multiple, unapproved media interviews, including an interview with a Russian government news agency” and recorded a meeting with FBI management that may have violated Florida state law, the FBI wrote. The FBI said it made its decision to revoke Friend’s security clearance after interviewing Friend, his coworkers and a review of Friend’s social media activity.

Rachel Semmel, the spokesperson for the Center for Renewing America, where Friend is a senior fellow, told CNN, “It’s no secret that Steve’s courage and honesty is a threat to the FBI’s corruption which is why they’re rolling out their best lies and misinformation.”

Both Allen and Friend have 30 days to request reconsideration of the FBI’s decision.

Suspended FBI agent Garret O’Boyle has not revealed his direct disclosures or FBI suspension notice to House Democrats, according to transcripts reviewed by CNN. When asked about his allegations against the FBI during his closed-door interview with the weaponization subcommittee earlier this year, O’Boyle said they were confidential.

A member of the subcommittee, Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York, told CNN he wants to ask about the extent the whistleblowers that have come forward are tied to Trump world.

“I am very interested to determine what degree of coordination there has been between these whistleblowers and the committee and other associates of Donald Trump,” he said. “So, we’ve got a lot of questions for them, both about the substance of their claims and about their bias.”

Fellow Democratic subcommittee member Rep. Gerry Connolly said that House Republicans have “failed to establish anything” with whistleblowers’ accounts.

The fourth individual testifying on Thursday is Tristan Leavitt, the president of Empower Oversight – an organization that is legally representing a series of whistleblowers who are in communication with Congress, including Friend.

Leavitt previously worked in the Office of the Special Counsel under Trump, where he says he helped reform the office’s whistleblower disclosure program. He also worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee under former chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican – including on the “Operation Fast and Furious” investigation – as well as served on the House Oversight Committee under former chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, where he worked on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

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Jim Jordan’s FBI whistleblowers to testify publicly before Congress