Jim Jordan’s FBI whistleblowers testifying publicly before Congress as questions about their legitimacy remain
Three self-described FBI whistleblowers, who are key to the Republican narrative that the FBI is weaponized against conservatives, are testifying at a House hearing Thursday, the latest escalation of 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 the 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.
Jordan said at a news conference ahead of the hearing that he was not surprised the FBI revoked the security clearances of two of the individuals testifying.
“We actually expected it. We’re surprised it took them that long to put up this letter about these guys, but you’ll get to hear from these individuals today, these brave Americans,” Jordan said in a response to a question from CNN.
A member of the subcommittee, Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York, told CNN ahead of the hearing 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 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.
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.”
Del. Stacey Plaskett, the top Democrat on the weaponization subcommittee, pressed Jordan during the hearing on whether Democrats can get access to the testimony from Allen’s interview with GOP members of the committee. But much to the dismay of Democrats, Jordan would not budge on providing the interview transcript or video.
Jordan said Allen wasn’t comfortable including Democrats in his interview and said Democrats aren’t entitled to all the evidence collected when it comes to whistleblowers.
“These are not whistleblowers,” Plaskett shot back. “The law has not determined they are whistleblowers. His attorney is just asserting that.”
“We can talk about the testimony, but right now you’re not getting the testimony,” Jordan said.
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.
Allen also claimed to not find open source information about a subject who was allegedly involved in criminal activity at the Capitol on January 6, but a separate FBI employee later found that the subject in question physically assaulted Capitol Police officers during the attack.
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.
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.
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.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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