House Judiciary Democrats claimed Friday that three witnesses who have spoken to Republicans as part of the GOP investigation into politicization at the FBI have offered no evidence of wrongdoing by the law enforcement agency.
They also said the witnesses were connected to committee Republicans through people with deep ties to former President Trump.
Republicans have asserted that they’ve spoken to “dozens and dozens” of whistleblowers as part of their probe, but the committee Democrats said the trio of witnesses it had identified had little firsthand knowledge about the FBI and were instead advancing conspiracy theories.
“The three individuals we have met are not, in fact, ‘whistleblowers.’ 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,” the committee Democrats wrote in a more than 300-page report released Friday.
Republicans say their committee members have spoken with more individuals, including those who reached out previously, but Democrats have access to the three formal interviews conducted since the GOP won power.
“These interviews also reveal the active engagement and orchestration of disturbing outside influence on the witnesses and, potentially, the Republican members of the Select Subcommittee. A network of organizations, led by former Trump administration officials like Kash Patel and Russell Vought, appears to have identified these witnesses, provided them with financial compensation, and found them employment after they left the FBI,” they added.
Patel, a former top Department of Defense official who is a surrogate for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, has been a chief voice in asserting that Trump declassified the documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s attorneys, however, have not made this claim in court.
Vought was director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration. He has since founded the Center for Renewing America, a think tank that advocates for Trump-like policy preferences. He was also a notable critic of now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the Speakership election saga.
It’s unusual for a committee to reveal the substance of private, transcribed interviews, something Democrats acknowledge by saying it is not a tactic they would use “in the ordinary course of business.”
The decision to do so drew fire from Republicans on the panel.
“It is 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. These same Democrats vowed to fight our oversight ‘tooth and nail,’ and they are willing to undermine the work of the Congress to achieve their partisan goals,” Russell Dye, spokesman for Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said in a statement.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of obstructing the GOP investigation in a speech at CPAC on Friday.
“If the Democrats are going to obstruct our investigation, then I am calling to remove the Democrats from our investigation,” Gaetz said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to sit in the depositions and hear the evidence if they are going to use that to try to get in the way of thorough, rigorous oversight.”
The three men who have sat down with the committee include George Hill, a retired FBI supervisory intelligence analyst from the FBI’s Boston Field Office; Garret O’Boyle, a suspended FBI special agent from the Wichita Resident Agency in Kansas; and Stephen Friend, a former special agent with the FBI’s Daytona Beach Resident Agency.
“Each endorses an alarming series of conspiracy theories related to the January 6 Capitol attack, the COVID vaccine, and the validity of the 2020 election. One has called repeatedly for the dismantling of the FBI. Another suggested that it would be better for Americans to die than to have any kind of domestic intelligence program,” the report states.
Hill has already appeared publicly before the committee in the first meeting of its subcommittee on weaponization of the federal government.
“Hill made multiple statements regarding the FBI’s handling of January 6-related investigations, but on cross-examination admitted that he did not in fact have personal firsthand knowledge of the matters he was describing,” the report states.
Hill has promoted a number of conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but his work on such cases while an FBI employee appears to be limited. He did not directly work on any cases related to the attack, and those he supervised supported other agents in what he said were “less than a dozen” cases.
Committee Democrats also took issue with Friend’s ties with Trump-aligned outsiders.
Friend said in a transcribed interview that Patel’s organization gifted him $5,000 around November 2022 and then put him in touch with the Center for Renewing America, where he is now a fellow on domestic intelligence and security.
Patel is also a senior fellow for national security at the Center for Renewing America, Vought’s organization that is closely partnered with the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), whose top officials include former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. CPI noted in its annual report that the Center for Renewing America “was the first to publicly call on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to set up a modern-day Church Committee to investigate systemic corruption at the FBI and ultimately break it up.”
Democrats raised issue with Friend having a “monetary incentive to continue pursuing his claims.”
Rachel Semmel, communications director at Center for Renewing America, pushed back on the Democrats’ report in a statement.
“The media is coordinating with the Left on the next phase of protecting weaponized government: discredit the brave ones who have come forward to blow the whistle on a security state that is weaponized against the American people, instead of protecting them,” Semmel said.
“Steve Friend bravely blew the whistle on FBI overreach and is devoted to ending the abuses of federal law enforcement; we are proud to have him working with us at Center for Renewing America.”
Democrats say O’Boyle refused to provide them with documents dealing with the suspension of his security clearance and note that he never took his complaints to any Justice Department or FBI offices tasked with evaluating employee claims.
But they say he provided little information to back his assertion that agents were pressured to open Jan. 6 cases, disclosing an excerpt in which he said he closed a case after determining there was insufficient evidence.
The two sides also quibbled over whether the men should be considered whistleblowers, a term used to describe those who reveal wrongdoing but that also conveys a status with certain legal protections against retribution once someone has made a report to the Office of Special Counsel.
“The individuals who have appeared before the Committee so far are ‘witnesses,’ not ‘whistleblowers,’” Democrats say in their report, deeming that each was simply relaying their opinion rather than offering any evidence of malfeasance.
Republicans argue they are just getting started kicking off transcribed interviews with a multitude of people with whom they’ve already communicated.
“We have dozens and dozens of whistleblowers who have talked to our committee. We look forward to welcoming them in for a transcribed interview if and when they are ready to tell their story. We hope that Democrat leaks do not chill their bravery to speak to Congress about what these whistleblowers see as wrongdoing within the Department of Justice and FBI,” Dye said.