March 23, 2023

I really want to echo David’s point from Friday about this Democratic staff report into Jim Jordan’s “weaponization” hearings. If you’ve been waiting a very long time for no nonsense Democrats to jump in front of Republicans, grab a whole buttload of facts and just pound them over the head with them … well, your moment may have arrived.

The document is more than three hundred pages long and the details are simply amazing. You probably didn’t figure that Jordan was going to unearth a lot of legitimate scandals or secret antifa cells at the FBI or other arms of federal law enforcement. But even if your bar was low, the levels of incompetence and pro-insurrectionist content is still pretty wild.

I got particularly focused on a guy named Stephen Friend, a purported FBI “whistleblower.” For starters, the report illustrates pretty methodologically that in most of the cases in which Friend claims to have damning inside information he actually had no involvement at all. He filed whistleblower complaints with the DOJ Inspector General’s office and the Office of Special Counsel, both of which rejected his claims. He later pitched his stories to Jordan and his committee. But a fairly basic review of the case suggests he used his budding relationship with Jordan to build up his brand, sell his book and raise money through a GoFundMe-style online fundraiser (using the right wing GoFundMe clone, GiveSendGo). This is mixed with various instances of mid-level official misconduct and flagrantly inappropriate political work while serving in the FBI. In other words, Friend appears to be a rather shambling mix of official incompetence, opportunism and hucksterism.

But the more troubling details are the ones that suggest Friend has, and may have gotten in hot water with superiors for, a high degree of sympathy with various extremist groups.

One of Friend’s big claims is that he was sent to surveil a school board meeting, an assertion seemingly meant to feed into right-wing claims that federal law enforcement is targeting parents who have complaints about COVID, transgender or race-related school policies. It turns out there was a bit more to his school board claim.

During his interview, Friend was asked about the Attorney General’s October 4, 2021, memorandum to address violent threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff. He described an instance in which he was asked to surveil an individual who was going to a school board meeting. On cross-examination, Friend admitted that prior to being given this task, he was aware that the FBI had an open counterterrorism investigation into the individual in question and that the individual was “one of the people that were arrested on August 24th,” meaning one of the individuals adhering to the Three Percenter violent ideology. He also separately acknowledged that “there had to be a legitimate predication” for the open counterterrorism investigation on the individual. Friend stated that he and his fellow agents never actually entered the school board meeting…

In another instance, Friend objected to using a SWAT team to arrest a group of Jan 6th indictees tied to a Florida Three Percenters/militia group Guardians of Freedom. Friend later claimed his objections were tied to one indictee being willing to cooperate with the FBI. But his contemporaneous remarks to FBI supervisors said the arrests were “inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses and opined that the subject would likely face extended detainment and biased jury pools in Washington D.C.”

(Sympathy for the Jan 6th insurrections is a common theme through the report, not limited to Friend. Another portion of the report shows that other FBI agents who Jordan claims were victimized by the FBI’s woke culture were actually disciplined by the Bureau for participating in the January 6th riot, which seems fairly reasonable. Jordan claims this is okay because they have not been charged with physically assaulting anyone or entering the capitol building.)

In other words, Friend’s career as a whistleblower seems to have two parts, the first when he was busy running interference for various Jan 6th arrestees and other violent domestic extremists while breaking various agency rules and filing frivolous whistleblower complaints; and the second when he hopped on the Jim Jordan bandwagon and starting angling for a gig on Fox, publicity for his new book and whatever money he could rustle up with online fundraisers.

I have to emphasize: Friend’s story is just a small part of this 300+ page report which seems to expose all Jordan’s ‘weaponization’ witnesses as some mix of failures, grifters or future (or let’s be honest, maybe current) Proud Boys members.

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