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Will House Judiciary Probe of FBI Endanger Ongoing Cases?

The creation of a House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government may portends a predictable and largely unproductive cycle of interbranch friction. It will start with overheated demands for information. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), says the wide-ranging probe will include the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago for documents that President Trump failed to return to federal authorities, the Department of Homeland Security probe of disinformation on social media, and the origins of investigations by the FBI and other agencies into contacts between the Russian Federation and the Trump campaign in 2016. The Biden administration will comply with some requests while resisting others. Republicans will denounce recalcitrance as a coverup, writes Ohio State University law Prof. emeritus Peter Shane in the Washington Monthly. Fox News will condemn any lack of transparency as Democratic hypocrisy. Democrats will say that Jordan refused to speak to the January 6 Committee.

This would not be the first time that politically motivated congressional investigations have sought to tarnish the records of federal law enforcement and counterintelligence agencies. GOP leaders have portrayed their new committee an honorable successor to the Church Committee in the U.S. Senate, which revealed abusive investigations by the FBI, CIA, and NSA of civil rights and antiwar activists. It may more resemble Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigations in the early 1950s. The new committee’s authorization to examine “ongoing criminal investigations” provokes concern. Protecting open investigations has been the responsibility of both Democratic and Republican administrations. Charles Cooper, a prominent conservative attorney, heading the the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan administration, made it clear that open investigations need to be safeguarded. He wrote: “This policy with respect to Executive Branch investigations was first expressed by President Washington and has been reaffirmed by or on behalf of most of our Presidents, including Presidents Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. No President, to our knowledge, has departed from this position affirming the confidentiality and privileged nature of open law enforcement files.”


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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