Five Facts on the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government

Five Facts on the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government

At the start of the new Congress, the Republican-controlled House voted along party lines to create a powerful new investigative body called the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The committee is currently investigating the Biden administration, alleged abuses of federal authority, and potential collusion between federal agencies and giant tech companies to censor and silence conservatives and squelch debate. The subcommittee has been using its subpoena power and holding hearings since February.

Here are Five Facts about this new investigative committee:

1. The House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government was formed on January 10, 2023, as a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

The purpose of this select subcommittee is to investigate alleged abuses of federal authority, particularly the alleged collusion between federal agencies and private sector entities to suppress conservative viewpoints. House Republicans gave the committee broad authority to subpoena law enforcement and national security agencies, and it can also gather information about the executive branch's authority to investigate U.S. citizens and its interactions with the private sector.

2. Leading Republicans say they were motivated to establish the subcommittee in part due to the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence and in part due to outrage over revelations in the "Twitter Files" released by Elon Musk.

Republicans, including the current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), criticized the August 2022 raid of Mar-a-Lago, which was part of an investigation into presidential documents Trump had removed from the White House and refused to return despite being issued a subpoena.

In return for far-right House Republicans in the Freedom Caucus supporting his bid to become speaker of the House, McCarthy pledged to create this subcommittee to conduct oversight and investigate actions taken by federal agencies, technology companies and the Biden administration.

3. Speaker McCarthy chose Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, to lead the subcommittee.

Rep. Jordan’s role as chair is significant due to his allegiance with the far right and his reputation as a vocal critic of the Biden administration and tech companies, who he has accused of content bias against conservatives. “In my time in Congress, I have never seen anything like this,” Mr. Jordan was quoted as saying. “Dozens and dozens of whistle-blowers, F.B.I. agents, coming to us, talking about what's going on -- the political nature at the Justice Department.”

Jordan has long called for increased transparency and accountability from tech companies.

As the chair of the select subcommittee, Rep. Jordan has been criticized by Democrats for allowing GOP witnesses to testify without taking questions, and this has resulted in anger and shouting and other raucous conduct during the select subcommittee’s hearings.

4. There have been four hearings held by the select subcommittee so far.

The first hearing, held on February 9, focused on the politicization of the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Witnesses at this hearing included Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and several legal and law enforcement experts. Sen. Johnson testified that the World Health Organization had been captured by the Chinese government, that “global institutions in general have been captured by the left,” adding that he had barely scratched the surface in describing the complexity, power, and destructive nature of the forces we face,” he added.

On March 9, Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, two figures central in the Twitter Files exposé alleging a suppression of conservative viewpoints on Twitter, testified on alleged collaboration between social media companies and the U.S. government. A third hearing on March 30th built on this by focusing on a lawsuit filed by Missouri’s Republican Attorney General alleging that the Biden administration had worked with social media companies to suppress discussion of the COVID-19 lab leak theory and the Hunter Biden laptop story.

The most recent hearing, held on May 18, centered around allegations of retaliation and suppression of whistleblowers within the FBI.

Rep. Jordan has subpoenaed the Justice Department demanding documents about whether the government mistreated parents who were scrutinized after school officials endured threats and harassment over mask mandates and teaching about racism.

Jordan has subpoenaed Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft for documents and communications relating to whether they worked with the federal government to block certain Americans from using their platforms to communicate.

5. The subcommittee has drawn polarized reactions, with Republicans largely praising it and Democrats uniformly disparaging it.

Some Republicans have compared the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government to the 1975 Church Committee, which was formed to investigate the abuse of civil liberties by the CIA and other U.S intelligence agencies. On the other hand, Democrats have criticized it, with some referring to it as the “tin foil hat committee”. Progressive House members called it the “Insurrection Protection Committee” – in reference to the January 6 riots – and “a fascist power grab to evade accountability.”