Three FBI whistleblowers told a congressional panel Thursday about punishments, revoked security clearances, and firings they endured after telling supervisors things their bosses didn’t want to hear.
“To be blunt, the leadership of the FBI and the DOJ are corrupt,” Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., said after hearing the FBI whistleblowers’ testimony.
“I will name names. [FBI Director] Christopher Wray and [Attorney General] Merrick Garland are corrupt,” Hageman said. “They know it. We know it. And the American people know it.”
The whistleblowers testifying before the House Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government were suspended FBI special agent Garret O’Boyle; former FBI special agent Steve Friend; and suspended FBI Staff Operations Specialist Marcus Allen.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, warned the FBI whistleblowers that they would be targeted for attack just before they began to testify before his select committee.
And Democrats on the panel soon obliged, with their key line of attack being that the three men aren’t real whistleblowers.
“I just want to tell you guys, get ready,” said Jordan, who is chairman of the House Judicary Committee as well as the select subcommittee on government weaponization.
“These guys are going to come after you,” Jordan said of his Democrat colleagues. “Last hearing we had, we had two journalists, Democrats, two Democrat journalists sat right where you guys did, and these guys [subcommittee Democrats] tried to get them to divulge their sources. Someone needs to tell them how the First Amendment works.”
During the subcommittee’s previous hearing, journalist Matt Taibbi testified that Internal Revenue Service agents came to his door after his reporting on the so-called Twitter files.
“I know you are up to the task, because you came forward in the first place,” Jordan told the three FBI whistleblowers.
Also present was their lawyer, Tristan Leavitt, president of Empower Oversight and a former member of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.
Ahead of the hearing Thursday, the subcommittee released an 80-page report detailing FBI retaliation against whistleblowers.
Here are four highlights from the select subcommittee’s hearing.
1. ‘Questioned Official Narrative’
After Wray, the FBI director, has been less than clear about whether that FBI confidential informants didn’t mingle with rioters during their breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Allen reported to supervisors that, in fact, this wasn’t the case.
“I was not in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, I played no part in the events of Jan. 6, and I condemn all criminal activity that occurred,” Allen tesified. “Instead, it appears that I was retaliated against becuase I forwarded information to my superiors that questioned the official narrative of the events of Jan. 6. As a result, I was accused of promoting conspiratorial views and unreliable information.”
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., read out loud a Twitter handle and asked Allen whether it was his account with the social media giant. Allen replied that it wasn’t his Twitter account.
Sanchez paused, then proceeded: “An account under the name Marcus Allen retweeted a tweet that said—.”
Allen again said: “That is not my account, ma’am.”
Jordan joked that maybe the account belonged to the pro football player of the same name.
Sanchez retorted: “You haven’t let me finish the question. The time is mine.”
The California Democrat then asked: “On Dec. 5, 2022, the account under the name Marcus Allen retweeted a tweet that said, quote, ‘Nancy Pelosi staged Jan. 6. Retweet if you agree.’ Do you agree with that statement?”
Allen, appearing perplexed that she would ask, shook his head and said: “No, ma’am. That is not my account at all. I have no idea—.”
After Allen answered, Sanchez interrupted to ask the same question a different way.
“I’m asking, do you believe that Nancy Pelosi staged Jan. 6?”
Allen seemed to mouth “No” while leaning into his microphone.
Jordan informed Sanchez that her time was up. She became agitated and said: “I want him to answer the question.”
Jordan said: “He’ll answer; just informing you [that] your time is up.”
Sanchez asked the previously answered question again: “Do you agree with this statement that this person tweeted, that Nancy Pelosi staged Jan. 6?”
For the third time, Allen gave the same answer.
“I don’t,” he said, shaking his head.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., expressed anger that Sanchez would question Allen’s loyalty to the country after he had served two tours in Iraq as a Marine and was the 2019 employee of the year in the FBI’s field office in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Is it your belief that you were retaliated against because you shared an email that questioned the truthfulness of FBI Director Christopher Wray?” Gaetz asked.
Allen: “Yes, sir.”
Gaetz : “And you believe he wasn’t truthful based on information given to the United States Seante. Is that right?”
Allen: “Yes, sir.”
Gaetz then referred to Wray’s statement in his Senate testimony.
“And in that testimony to the Senate, you believe that Christopher Wray indicated that there were no confidential informants and no FBI assets that were present at the Capitol on Jan. 6 [during] that part of the violent riot. Isn’t that right?” Gaetz asked.
Allen replied, “Yes, sir.”
2. ‘Frustrated and Angry’
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., questioned Friend, who was fired by the FBI, about how truthful both Garland and Wray have been.
“I’ve been here five years,” Steube said, “and during that period of time, Director Wray and AG Garland have both sat in desks just like that and testified that they would not retaliate against whistleblowers. It’s my understanding, Mr. Friend, that you went through all of the required regulations at the FBI in order to raise your concerns to your supervisors. Is that correct?
Friend replied, “Yes.”
Steube then asked: “You followed inside protocol for the FBI utilizing the whistleblower statute … to make your complaints known?”
Friend replied, “Yes,” adding that he talked to three levels of supervisors about his disagreements.
Steube: “The response to that was losing your security clearance, shutting you out, losing your job, and taking away your pay?”
Friend: “That’s correct.”
Steube said he personally was “frustrated and angry.”
However, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., attacked Friend’s motives and noted that he has a book about to be published, a reference to Friend’s “True Blue: My Journey From Beat Cop to Suspended FBI Whistleblower.”
“You are engaging in the self-promotion of your new book that is about to be released,” Wasserman Schultz told Friend. “What great timing to be on TV and in Congress right before your book tour starts. It’s quite coincidental.”
Early in the hearing, Friend had said: “This committee should avoid the temptation to impugn the character and the motivations of the messengers seated before you. I sacrified my dream job to share this information with the American people. I humbly ask all of the members to do your jobs and consider the merit to what I have presented.”
During the hearing, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., brought up a tweet from Friend and seemed a little surprised at the former FBI agent’s frank answer.
“Mr. Friend, have you ever put a tweet out to defund, disband, dismantle, and abolish the FBI?” Garamendi asked.
Friend: “I have.”
Garamendi: “And the FBI is a police agency, yes?”
Friend: “It’s my contention that they are a domestic intelligence agency with law enforcement capability.”
Garamendi: “They are a police agency, thank you. I suppose consistency is the hobgoblin of a small mind.”
3. ‘Regular Order’
Several Democrats on the panel complained that they didn’t get transcripts of the interview Republicans did with the three FBI whistleblowers.
Jordan noted that Democrats had leaked cherry-picked portions of previous testimony to mischaracterize witnesses. The Ohio Republican added that under federal whistleblower law, a protected whistleblower may decide when a transcribed interview is released.
At this point, the hearing room became raucous.
“I’m not aware that you are able to withhold information from the minority that we would need to help prepare,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Jordan replied: “When it comes to whistleblowers, you are not [entitled to the transcript].”
Subcommittee members began to yell back and forth at each other.
“I can’t hear five people at once,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said. “Can we have regular order?”
Jordan tried to maintain order, but without success.
“I’m inquiring,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“I told you, when it comes to whistleblowers, you are not entitled to it. That’s at the discretion of Mr. Allen,” Jordan replied, referring to Marcus Allen.
Wasserman Schultz responded that the FBI didn’t consider the three men to be whistleblowers.
“Mr. Chairman, these individuals have been determined not to be whistleblowers,” Wasserman Schultz said. “They’ve been determined by the agency not to be whistleblowers. Are you deciding they are whistleblowers?”
“The law decides,” Jordan said, before referring to the three men’s lawyer. “Did you not listen to Mr. Leavitt’s testimony? Did you not read the law? The law decides.”
4. ‘What Becomes of Whistleblowers’
O’Boyle’s trouble came after the FBI special agent questioned the process used in Jan. 6-related prosecutions.
Gaetz asked O’Boyle whether the FBI tried to “get you to do something that was outside the normal order of law enforcement activity?”
O’Boyle replied: “Yes, sir.”
Gaetz: “What did the [FBI’s] Washington field office try to get you to do that violated the law and regulations?”
O’Boyle: “They tried to get me to serve a federal grand jury subpoena when there was no propper predicate to do so.”
Gaetz: “The reason there was no predicate is that it was based on an anonymous tip, right?”
O’Boyle: “That’s correct.”
Gaetz followed up by asking whether, “time and again,” the FBI’s Washington field office pressured him to pursue cases that lacked corroboration.
O’Boyle: “Yes, sir.”
“Jan. 6 was a bad day, a violent day nobody wants to relive,” Gaetz said. “Violence on Jan. 6 doesn’t justify weaponizing the government against people who were innocent and did nothing wrong.”
Earlier in his testimony, O’Boyle said the FBI smeared him as a subpar agent and reassigned him. After he and his family moved to the new location, he said, the FBI suspended him.
“Despite our oath to uphold the Constitution, too many in the FBI are unwilling to sacrifice for the hard right over the easy wrong,” O’Boyle said. “They see what becomes of whistleblowers, how the FBI destroys their careers, suspends them under false pretenses, takes their security clearance and pay with no true options for recourse or remedy. This is by design. It creates an Orwellian atmosphere that silences opposition and discussion.”
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