Recent Developments With The FBI
Cincinnati, August 30, 2022
First and foremost, I unequivocally condemn the recent attack by an individual on the FBI field office in Cincinnati, and I did so publicly and immediately. Sadly, our country has seen escalating political violence in recent years. Regardless of political ideology, violent behavior is unacceptable. From the 2017 attack on the Republican Congressional Baseball team, to the riots over summer 2020, to the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, to now, individuals are responsible for the actions they take. Nobody should be encouraging or excusing violence of any sort as a legitimate form of political expression, and we cannot give encouragement or acceptance of violent behavior.
I have been in contact with the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, expressing my support for their dedicated work in upholding the rule of law. The ranks of our law enforcement agencies, from local police to FBI agents in the field, are filled with patriots who work day-in and day-out to protect our communities and our nation. I know firsthand that this is the case in the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati, and I am grateful for their work to keep us safe. As well, I have the utmost confidence in the dedicated agents and rank-and-file staff at the FBI who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe across the country. Throughout my time in Congress, I have had the good fortune to meet many of those who serve the public good through their work at the FBI, and I know they are dedicated to upholding the rule of law.
If authoritative powers are abused in ways that undermine the American public’s faith and trust in our institutions, I will work to hold them accountable. I believe that those in the Cincinnati field office responded appropriately.
However, I have concerns with how the leadership of the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) – those who serve at the upper echelons of Federal agencies – handled the recent search of President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. As you may know, on August 8, 2022, the FBI carried out the unprecedented raid at Mar-a-Lago in the search and recovery of certain documents. Especially at a time when a growing number of Americans distrust our government institutions and believe them to be increasingly politicized, I believe the FBI should have been more transparent with Congress, especially those of us on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) who are responsible for oversight and national security issues at the highest levels. The Intelligence Committee has yet to be briefed on the national security risks or the reason for the course of action that they chose.
Although the search warrant and inventory of documents taken have been released, I support the call of my colleagues on HPSCI for the FBI and DOJ to brief the Committee – Republicans and Democrats – further on the search, including information about the sealed affidavit used to get the warrant approved. You can watch my full remarks at the Intelligence Committee Republicans’ press conference here. I believe our country needs a strong Federal law enforcement agency that is honest and transparent with the American people. This includes being willing to work with Congress as this branch is the embodiment of the idea that this government is of, by, and for the people.
However, through my personal experience, I believe the top leadership at the FBI has not always been willing to work with us in Congress, or at least those of us who serve on HPSCI, to provide that necessary transparency. For example, in the aftermath of the 2017 Republican Congressional Baseball shooting, the FBI told those of us who were on the field that the shooter was motivated by a desire to commit suicide-by-cop. This is despite the fact that the FBI failed to interview any of the Members and staff who were at the field and that there was evidence proving the shooting was politically motivated. For instance, evidence shows that the shooter had a list of names, including Republican Members of Congress, in his possession and, before carrying out the attack, he asked if the Members at the baseball field were Republicans or Democrats. Furthermore, the shooter’s operational movements during the attack, from firing well over 100 rounds to seeking cover during the shooting when officers returned fire, demonstrate his murderous intent. Finally, the attacker could not have known that then-Majority Whip Scalise’s security detail was present given that they were in an undercover vehicle and in plain clothes. All of these facts are inconsistent with a designation of “suicide-by-cop.”
After four years, I finally had an opportunity to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about the Bureau’s conclusion and, to his credit, he reviewed the evidence and changed the determination of the attack from suicide-by-cop to an incident of domestic violent extremism.
Even still, however, the FBI has so far resisted working with us on HPSCI to provide the case file related to the shooting so that we can understand how, why, and by whom mistakes were made in the handling of the investigation into such a high-profile shooting. It is an honor and a privilege to serve on HPSCI. My goal in joining this Committee was to work with the Intelligence Community to do what's best for the United States and her people. If those of us who are on the Committee directly overseeing these issues cannot access the information that led to such a flawed initial determination, Congress cannot exercise its proper oversight role or work with the FBI towards measures that would ensure mistakes like this are not made in the future.
Regardless of party or circumstances, this lack of willingness to cooperate with Congress should be concerning to the American people. I have heard from people on both sides of the aisle with their concerns about the lack of cooperation from the FBI and other agencies. Congress is here to provide oversight and accountability of the agencies that we created and the taxpayers fund. Only through working with Congress will the American people regain the trust in the very institutions we absolutely need to protect us and enforce the law.