Apr 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Inside the GOP's 100-day "weaponization" war

Jim Jordan and James Comer

Reps. Jim Jordan, left, and James Comer. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

100 days into their majority, the House GOP's top two investigative panels have issued nearly three dozen subpoenas — plowing forward in a range of aggressive probes even as Democrats and federal agencies claim foul play.

Why it matters: Republicans vowed on the campaign trail to hold the Biden administration accountable and investigate the alleged "weaponization" of government — a conservative cause that has taken on new urgency in the wake of former President Trump's indictment.

  • Within the right-wing media ecosystem, probes of the FBI, Twitter and now Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have dominated the front pages — juicing fundraising and firing up the GOP base.
  • But Republicans face skepticism from the wider public that the investigations are worth the time and money, with new delays and criticisms threatening to diminish their impact.

State of play: Republican aides point to their swift movement on subpoenas, document production and written reports as signs of clear and early success.

  • The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), subpoenaed the FTC this week after uncovering new details about the breadth of the agency's investigation into Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter.
  • Jordan also subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray after a leaked internal memo — since withdrawn — suggested the FBI considered developing sources in local Catholic parishes to monitor extremism.
  • The House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), obtained records showing members of President Biden's family received more than $1 million indirectly from a Chinese company.

Yes, but: Democrats — and even some of the committees' top outside supporters — believe Republicans have spread themselves too thin with their sprawling investigations, some of which have been hastily launched in response to breaking news.

  • "It's not like they have 50 attorneys over there," one Democratic aide familiar with the investigations told Axios.
  • Officials at the Center for Renewing America (CRA), a Trump-aligned think tank, want more resources dedicated to the weaponization issue — and for Republicans to introduce tangible policy changes or legislation.
  • Bragg and several federal agencies, including the FTC and Department of Education, say Republicans have ignored offers to cooperate and rushed to issue subpoenas for political purposes.

By the numbers: The Judiciary Committee has issued 22 subpoenas, sent 163 letters and conducted nine transcribed interviews thus far, according to committee data provided to Axios.

  • They've also obtained more than 114,000 pages of documents — an indication of cooperation from at least some of the agencies being investigated.
  • The Oversight Committee has issued 10 subpoenas, according to a source familiar: four to former Twitter employees, five for bank records and one to former Hunter Biden business associate Mervyn Yan.
  • A GOP aide described them as "friendly" subpoenas requested by the recipients.

Zoom in: Republican claims of bombshell interviews with witnesses and "whistleblowers" have prompted some of the most heated partisan clashes, with Democrats issuing scathing criticisms of the sources' reliability.

  • Alleged FBI "whistleblowers," for example, did not end up having firsthand accounts of internal bias and at times trafficked in conspiracy theories, according to Democratic Judiciary staff.
  • GOP aides have pushed back, accusing Democrats of mischaracterizing witness testimony and intimidating law enforcement willing to come forward, rather than address the content of the issues raised.
  • Oversight Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) went public last week with allegations that Comer was either withholding information from Democratic staff or lying about how many witnesses he had heard from in the investigation of Biden's family.
  • In a statement to Axios, Comer accused Raskin of "launching desperate attacks to distract from the bank records we’ve obtained revealing the Biden family receiving money from foreign adversaries."

What's next: The GOP's efforts to undermine Bragg — which have at times been coordinated with Trump himself — are now facing a significant legal challenge.

  • The Manhattan DA sued Jordan this week to block a subpoena, triggering what is likely to be an extended court battle that could delay any testimony past the 2024 election.
  • In the meantime, Jordan is organizing a field hearing in Manhattan next week to call attention to violent crime that Republicans say Bragg is not prosecuting.

The bottom line: The committees' work thus far — though fast and far-reaching — has yet to reveal the explosive findings to match conservative claims of government weaponization, Big Tech censorship and foreign influence peddling by Biden.

  • But it's still early — and worth remembering that investigations into Trump dragged on for years when House Democrats were in power.
  • "No committee has ever moved faster, uncovered more, and produced more results in such a short time than Chairman Jordan’s committee, and anyone saying otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is pushing liberal talking points to fulfill a bogus narrative," Russell Dye, a spokesman for Jordan, told Axios in a statement.
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