I once heard a former prosecutor describe Ohio Representative Jim Jordan as the type of critic who can criticize a case to death from the sidelines, but could never construct a good, solid case of his own.
Truth be told, that prosecutor hit the nail on the head. Not even five months into the new Congress, House Judiciary Committee chair Jordan’s weaponization subcommittee has fallen embarrassingly flat.
Jordan, perhaps the most ardent and zealous defender of former President Donald Trump, has presided over one dud hearing after another in his quest to show that the FBI has been weaponized against conservatives and their culture in America. Even prominent allies in his right-wing echo chamber have criticized his performance to date.
His most recent effort — last week’s hearing on FBI “politicization” — has by now shown sufficiently that he is not up to the challenge. The obvious reason is that he has come face-to-face with an uncooperating reality – his thesis is a myth.
The hearing featured what he described as three brave FBI whistleblowers with evidence to support his thesis of politicization by the bureau. What we learned instead is these three former employees – former special agent Steve Friend, suspended special agent Garret O’Boyle, and suspended operations specialist Marcus Allen — described their own workplace grievances. We also learned that each is considered by the FBI to be a security risk stemming from January 6-related and other issues, and are undergoing serious security clearance reviews. And we learned that at least two of them were paid by a Trump World provocateur, Kash Patel.
Clearly missing in their testimony was any evidence supporting the Jordan thesis, or any description of what a classic whistleblower brings to the table – a higher noble purpose to their actions and their testimony.
By way of background, I have an extensive resume of conducting oversight investigations and hearings, replete with now-famous, courageous whistleblowers, including brave and consequential FBI agents. I recently Googled “List of FBI whistleblowers in history.” A list of 11 names popped up, starting with Mark Felt of “Deep Throat” Watergate fame. It turns out that I was intimately involved in more than half of those successful cases, as a U.S. Senate investigator or as executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, or both.
Based on my experience, it’s routine for me to notice Jordan’s shortcomings. Here are some big ones:
- Credibility. First, he lacks credibility, as do his witnesses. Jordan appears to think labeling someone a “whistleblower” gives him and them instant credibility, and cover for his evidence-free conspiracies. Aside from the fact that his witnesses don’t get close to the classic threshold of a “real” whistleblower, Jordan doesn’t seem to understand that his witnesses getting paid by Kash Patel raise conflict and perception issues that their testimony might be bought and paid for. When asked by a reporter after the hearing if it concerned him at all that his witnesses had been paid by Patel, he reportedly responded, “They’ve got a family. How are they supposed to feed their family?” One wonders how Jordan would react if his Democratic counterpart were asked if she was concerned that her witness had been paid by liberal financier George Soros. Perhaps Jordan thinks using the bleeding heart image of a financially struggling family trumps the credibility issue. In the world of government oversight, sorry — it doesn’t.
- Higher Noble Purpose. The admirable value that true whistleblowers offer is about wrongdoing they find in the workplace, and as faithful public servants motivated by a concern that a great harm is being perpetrated on that public by a powerful bureaucratic force, they report it. And then that massive force makes their lives a living hell in retaliation. Real whistleblowers who live that ordeal and survive it successfully are true heroes and shouldn’t have their dignity and heroism disrespected by a spectacle of overzealous Congressional partisanship.
- Hide and Seek with Evidence. Jordan and his allies seem to lack confidence in an evidentiary environment. Last week’s hearing erupted in chaos as Jordan denied the minority access to one of the witness’s transcribed interviews to prepare for the hearing. Democrats cited and read from the committee’s rules claiming it was a violation. Jordan sought to validate the move by claiming an exception to the rules – for whistleblowers. He didn’t cite the exception to the rule. Democrats, reading the rule, claimed there was no exception. This embarrassing display leaves observers to question whether they are up to doing the required homework to build and defend their case of politicization against conservatives.
This wasn’t the first time that Republicans displayed this hide and seek mindset. In March, after the minority was given access to some whistleblower depositions, the subcommittee’s minority staff issued a bombshell report that shredded the credibility of three former agents who had spoken privately to the subcommittee, including Friend and O’Boyle. One Jordan ally on the subcommittee came up with a solution to answering the report’s damaging criticisms of their witnesses. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called for removing Democrats from the investigation and not allowing them to sit in on the depositions. He said that Democrats were getting “in the way of thorough, rigorous oversight.”
Jordan’s biggest enemy in his quest to demonstrate that the FBI is politicized against conservatives is himself. He overpromised and now can’t deliver on the evidence. As one who conducted oversight of the FBI for years, I can say that a handful of really inane mistakes by the bureau, some of which I uncovered myself over the years, can and do happen. But they do not translate to a singular-minded federal agency whose mission is to do political battle with an ideology. It’s one thing for a previous back-bench novice to toss barbs from the sidelines claiming that, but it’s a lot harder when you’re riding point in the big guy’s chair and the world is watching and waiting for you to make your case.