House Republicans are taking their fight with the FBI and main Justice Department to a new level — weighing punitive steps that would have been unfathomable a decade ago.
Half a year into their majority, and with an increasingly restless right flank, the House GOP is ready for a confrontation after a spate of DOJ decisions it sees as either anti-Trump or pro-Biden. At the top of the list: Hunter Biden’s plea deal and Donald Trump’s indictment over his handling of classified documents, Politico reports. That push against DOJ will become a cornerstone of Republicans’ agenda in a chaotic back half of the year. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has threatened to explore impeaching Attorney General Merrick Garland. Conservatives have gone after FBI Director Christopher Wray, weighing whether to force a vote to recommend booting him from office.
Some conservatives who believe the agencies have targeted Republicans are eager to cut the law agencies’ budgets. There’s a long-brewing congressional fight over a soon-to-expire warrantless surveillance program that has produced bipartisan accusations of abuse by the FBI.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) predicted that conservative colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee’s government politicization panel and their allies would take their battle to the chamber floor. Those Republicans, he said, “believe the best way to send a message is to use the power of the purse.”
Conservative efforts could backfire, exposing tension with centrist and more establishment Republicans who embrace the party’s pro-law enforcement roots — the prevailing sentiment inside the GOP before Trump came along.
Wray will appear before the Judiciary Committee days after the House returns from its July 4 break, while Garland will testify in September.
The drive by right-wing Republicans in Congress to vilify the FBI with charges of political bias has imperiled a program allowing spy agencies to conduct warrantless surveillance on foreign targets, sapping support for a premier intelligence tool.
The once-secret program — created after the 9/11 attacks and described by intelligence officials as crucial to stopping overseas hackers, spy services and terrorists — has long faced resistance by Democrats concerned that it could trample on Americans’ civil liberties.
The law authorizing it is set to expire in December. Opposition among Republicans, who have historically championed it, has grown as the G.O.P. has stepped up its attacks on the FBI, the New York Times reports.
“There’s no way we’re going to be for reauthorizing that in its current form — no possible way,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is leading a special House investigation into the “weaponization” of government against conservatives. “We’re concerned about surveillance, period.”
At issue is a program that allows the government to collect — on domestic soil and without a warrant — the communications of targeted foreigners abroad, including when those people are interacting with Americans. Leaders of both parties have warned the Biden administration that Congress will not renew the law known as Section 702 without changes to prevent federal agents from searching the email, phone and other electronic records of Americans in touch with surveilled foreigners.