Judicial Watch’s Guide to Congressional Investigations
The new House of Representatives was sworn in early Saturday morning after Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker on the fifteenth ballot. The House GOP leadership promises an ambitious agenda of investigations, including a special committee on the weaponization of federal agencies, but history is not reassuring. Will the House probes bring real progress—important new information, defunding of bad actors, sunlight on wrongdoing, indictment referrals, impeachment if warranted—or two years of fruitless bickering over documents and testimony?
At Judicial Watch, we run our own investigations and have been holding government officials, Democrat and Republican, accountable for nearly three decades, but we’ll be closely watching the House probes. Republican staff on the House Judiciary Committee earlier released a “road map” to the new investigative agenda, and over at the Senate, ranking Judiciary Committee member Charles Grassley has been digging deep into FBI corruption, releasing letters outlining serious allegations of wrongdoing. We’ve reviewed all the documents and talked to our sources. Here’s our guide to the new Congressional investigations.
Who Is Jack Smith?
No case is likely to dominate the 2023 headlines more than the investigation of former president Donald Trump by new special counsel Jack Smith. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith, a career federal prosecutor, to lead a probe into Trump’s conduct surrounding the events of January 6, 2021, as well as a separate probe of the storage of presidential documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump has denied wrongdoing in both cases. Notably, any decision to indict rests with the attorney general, not the special counsel.
The Trump affair screams for Congressional oversight—and apparently will get it. Even before the appointment of Smith, the House investigative road map signaled concerns about an “unprecedented raid on a former president’s home” to seize documents. The roadmap noted that Trump had cooperated with government officials seeking documents before the raid; that “the Biden Justice Department has provided limited justification for this unprecedented action;” and that Justice and the FBI “have failed to sufficiently comply” with Congressional requests for documents related to the raid. Congress will want to take a look as well at the belated disclosure of classified documents found at a Joe Biden office in the days before the 2022 midterm elections.
Smith’s unusual career—a path that took him from the office of the Manhattan District Attorney to federal postings in Brooklyn, Washington, Tennessee, and the Hague—is also worth a closer look. From 2010 to 2015, he headed the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and was at the center of several controversial issues. Among them: the IRS scandal.
In 2014, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that top IRS officials had been in communication with Smith’s Public Integrity Section about a plan to launch criminal investigations into conservative tax-exempt groups. Government officials were looking to step up a probe into requests for tax-exemption from organizations with conservative sounding names like “Tea Party” and other “political sounding names,” according to a later report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general. Smith appears to have been a key player in this attempt to silence conservative voices.
According to the documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Smith directed the head of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, to meet with the director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Organizations division, Lois Lerner. In one email obtained by Judicial Watch, Lerner discusses an idea that the Justice Department could build “false-statement cases” against tax-exempt conservative groups.
Judicial Watch later obtained additional documents detailing a planning meeting between Justice Department, FBI and IRS officials about possible criminal prosecutions. Thanks to Judicial Watch disclosures, House investigators discovered that the IRS improperly turned over confidential tax records of non-profit organizations to the FBI—sparking a public uproar and forcing the return of the records to the IRS. Read more about the case here and here.
Biden Family Corruption
The other headline-grabbing case in the House roadmap are allegations of corruption involving President Biden’s son, Hunter, and other family members—possibly even the president himself. The House report puts aside the sensational aspects of the Hunter Biden saga—the crack cocaine use, the heavy drinking and hookers, the controversy over a suddenly surfaced laptop computer, a gun, a seemingly endless parade of incriminating, embarrassing, or outright disgusting personal photographs from the laptop—and focuses on the sober case.
Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act litigators are pressing for additional information about the Secret Service’s handling of the Hunter Biden gun case, Biden business dealings, and possible FBI obstruction of a Senate inquiry into Biden business dealings.
“Mounting evidence from the last two years,” the House roadmap notes, “shows that Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, has received preferential treatment from federal law enforcement, who seem to have turned a blind eye to potential national security threats presented by his business dealings with Chinese, Russian, and other foreign nationals.”
The roadmap notes the September 2020 release of an investigative report by Senator Chuck Grassley. That report noted “potential criminal activity relating to transactions among and between Hunter Biden, his family, and his associates with Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh, and Chinese nationals.” One Hunter Biden business associate charges that Joe Biden was slated for a payoff in 2017. Congress will want to hear from the Biden business partner alleging a payoff of the president and take a close look at the evidence.
The Grassley letters outline an apparent campaign of stonewalling and coverup by the FBI and others in response to Congressional inquiries in the Hunter Biden case. The letters, cited at length in the House roadmap, also note the role of several senior FBI officials and Richard Pilger—the Justice Department Election Crimes Branch chief involved in the earlier IRS scandal—in opening investigations into “the Trump campaign and individuals linked to the 2020 elections.” FBI whistleblowers told Grassley that there was a “double standard” in opening investigations that appeared “to benefit the political aims and objectives of a select few Justice Department and FBI officials.”
Those are serious charges. Congressional investigators will have to steer around numerous roadblocks, including a criminal inquiry into Hunter Biden by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the top federal prosecutor in Delaware. Fox News has reported that Attorney General Garland—Weiss’s boss—has taken a “hands-off approach” to the Hunter Biden case and is “leaving charging decisions up to Weiss,” a Trump appointee. But Congress may want a look at the Garland connection as well.
FBI Corruption: Faking a Rise in Domestic Violent Extremism?
The House roadmap reports that whistleblowers have come forward with claims that “the FBI is manipulating data about domestic violent extremism to support the Biden Administration’s political agenda.” According to the roadmap, the FBI “is pressuring agents to reclassify cases as domestic violent extremism (DVE)” and allegedly “manufacturing DVE cases where they may not otherwise exist and even manipulating its case categorization system to feign a national problem.”
That’s a grave charge. The issue traces back to the events of January 6, 2021, Congressional investigators say. According to the roadmap, whistleblowers have come forward “with information about how the FBI manipulated the manner in which it categorized January 6-related investigations to create a misleading narrative that domestic terrorism is organically surging around the country.”
According to FBI whistleblowers, FBI field offices around the country have been directed by the powerful FBI Washington Field Office to open cases against individuals who were at Capitol on January 6. But no work is actually done in the field, according to the whistleblowers. Rather, the entire January 6 investigation is run from the Washington office.
The upshot? Notes the roadmap: the “FBI’s case categorization creates the illusion that FBI field offices around the country are investigating a groundswell of domestic terrorism cases, giving the impression that [domestic violent extremism, or DVE] is present in jurisdictions across the nation. In reality, however, the cases all stem from the same related investigation concerning the actions at the Capitol on January 6. Such an artificial case categorization scheme allows FBI leadership to misleadingly point to ‘significant’ increases in DVE nationwide.”
FBI Corruption: Targeting School Boards & Parents
In October, as controversy about Covid masking and the influence of hard-left Critical Race Theory in education rippled through school board meetings across the country, Attorney General Garland issued a memorandum directing the Justice Department and FBI to target local school boards and parents. The FBI would address a purported “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school boards.
Following a national outcry about Justice Department overreach, Garland publicly backpedaled, but did not rescind or disavow the memorandum. In fact, the FBI quickly doubled down. The House road map notes that soon after the Garland memorandum, the FBI established “a new ‘threat tag’ created to apply to school board investigations.” The new “EDUOFFICIALS” threat tag, officials directed, was to be applied to all “investigations and assessments of threats specifically against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” according to an email obtained by House investigative staff.
Critics charge that the Justice and the FBI has gone too far, chilling legitimate dissent over issues such as Covid masks and Critical Race Theory. Imagine speaking up at your local school board meeting and getting a visit from the FBI. The roadmap claims that “information from whistleblowers show that the FBI has opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings.”
Big Brother, Big Tech
House leaders are also calling for close looks at the FBI’s relationship with Big Tech powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter. The House roadmap says evidence “shows that the FBI is helping censor conservative viewpoints” on Big Tech platforms. Whistleblower information provided to House investigators “suggests that the FBI and Facebook have a so-called ‘special relationship’ that may threaten constitutional protections and lead to partisan efforts.” Whistleblower allegations suggest that the special FBI relationship includes “Facebook voluntarily sending information that may relate to citizens’ private political speech.”
Elon Musk’s recent “Twitter Files” disclosures have increased pressure for congressional scrutiny of the relationship between government entities and Big Tech. The Twitter disclosures outlined apparent government interference with free speech, suppression of conservative voices, improper banning of then-President Trump from the platform, and censorship of New York Post reporting on the Hunter Biden scandal. Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told the Wall Street Journal that the Twitter Files showed the “collusion between big government, big tech and big media” was “worse than we thought.” Jordan and incoming House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer are expected to launch hearings exploring the Twitter Files revelations.
The Border Crisis
It’s not in the road map, but the other House investigations worth noting are upcoming probes into the crisis on the southern border. House leaders have said they will support investigations by the House Judiciary and House Oversight committees into border issues, including a possible impeachment inquiry into Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The southern border is under tremendous strain. More than two million illegal immigrants were arrested in border crossings in 2022 up to October, a record number—and that’s just the ones that got caught. More than 800 died making the dangerous crossing in the same time period. Mexican drug cartels pound the border in an unceasing drug war. The latest cartel gambit? A plague of fentanyl on both sides of the border.
House investigators want to hear from Mayorkas and other top Homeland Security officials on a wide range of issues, including the unprecedented surge of illegal aliens, the failure of border policing and border security technology, the impact of President Trump’s wall and other Trump-era policies, the influence of drug cartels and drug smuggling, and the entry into the U.S. of violent criminals and terrorists.
We’ll have more on the House investigations in the coming months. And the independent Judicial Watch investigations will continue. Stay tuned.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: [email protected]
Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: [email protected]