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You wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines, but Special Counsel John Durham has demonstrated in exacting detail what former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and I first uncovered five years ago: the Steele Dossier was not just a Clinton-concocted and Democrat-funded scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election. It was an unlawful effort eagerly coordinated by the top brass of the FBI, culminated in the presentation of known lies to a federal court to illegally surveil President Donald Trump and his campaign. Only now are we learning just how deep the corruption ran, all the way through the intelligence community. While doomed to failure because of the political rot infesting D.C.-area jury pools, Durham’s prosecutions of Michael Sussmann and Igor Danchenko were necessary steps toward exposing the FBI’s schemes to abuse its surveillance powers to meddle in domestic politics. We still have a lot to learn, including about the role of the CIA and its former director Gina Haspel in launching the Russia Hoax behind the scenes. While I successfully surmounted obstacles established by “obstruction twins” FBI Director Chris Wray and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to uncover that (for example) high-ranking DOJ official Bruce Ohr was married to dossier researcher Nellie, acted as an FBI source cutout, just so they can maintain the influx of intel they knew to be false. So much has yet to be revealed to the American public, and it must be with haste.
With the American people poised to sweep the GOP back into power, House Republicans have a rare chance to build on the work Nunes, Durham, and others to learn the full truth and enact fundamental reforms. The FBI has abused its counterintelligence mission to target the Democrats’ political opponents, including unrelenting attacks on Trump from his candidacy, throughout his presidency, and continuing with the unprecedented raid on Mar-a-Lago.
Local law enforcement officers are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on Aug. 9, 2022. (GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
If that weren’t enough, the FBI brazenly rigged the 2020 election and withheld from Congress damning information about Hunter Biden’s corrupt foreign business dealings by directing Facebook to censor any reporting about Hunter’s laptop, falsely calling it “Russian disinformation,” a damned lie propagated in a letter signed by more than 50 former senior intelligence community officials. These officials included former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, who more recently breezily suggested that Trump deserves the death penalty, and he was glad to knowingly participate in a fraud to keep Trump out of office. Amazingly, the FBI’s abuses of Americans’ civil liberties extend beyond the Russia collusion hoax and counterintelligence matters to domestic “counterterrorism” investigations. Among other outrages, the FBI has targeted parents who spoke out against woke education policies at local school board meetings, smeared Trump supporters as “domestic extremists,” and arrested numerous pro-life activists (including a father of seven) on trumped-up federal charges.
The politicization of the FBI into a partisan tool to punish the Democrats’ enemies and protect their friends is a threat that imperils our republic and demands Congress’ immediate attention. They have created a two-tiered system of justice; we must undo it. Therefore, the next Speaker of the House must establish a new Church Committee – the legendary Senate select committee established in 1975 to exclusively probe gross abuses committed by the Intelligence Community. While some may prefer to have standing committees conduct robust investigations, a standing committee is, for three key reasons, not the proper vehicle for this generational effort to rein in the FBI and reclaim our constitutional civil liberties.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR OPINION NEWSLETTER First, any serious investigation into the FBI will need an adequately resourced, laser-focused team free from the competing demands that conducting standard oversight work requires, much like the current footprint of the January 6 Select Committee. While the “Unselects” are of course focused on only on political gain at the expense of the constitution, their unapologetic use of legislative power and prerogatives are worth emulating in the next Congress.
Second, a standing committee would face traditional jurisdictional barriers that the FBI has expertly used to play shell games with congressional committees for decades. For example, the FBI might restrict information about counterintelligence activities to the Intelligence Committee, only engage with Judiciary regarding legislative changes, and work with Appropriations to ensure funding increases with limited accountability. The FBI also uses the cloak of “ongoing investigations” to delay document production pursuant to valid congressional subpoenas, as I learned firsthand.
Finally, an investigation as consequential as the one needed here could irreparably harm a standing committee’s ability to function normally. I know this from my experience on the House Intelligence Committee. Although committee Republicans exposed the Russia collusion hoax, the mainstream media viciously attacked Chairman Nunes and myself for laying bare shocking intelligence community abuses. Any committee chairman employing the bare-knuckle approach essential to fixing the FBI will similarly meet the mainstream media’s fury, imperiling his ability to maintain some semblance of regular order on a standing committee.
The next speaker must establish a dedicated panel in the spirit of the Church Committee to properly investigate these abuses, withholding federal funding, impose accountability, and fearlessly point the way to fundamental legislative reform before it is too late. The American people deserve nothing less.
Kash Patel was lead investigator on the Russia-gate investigation for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. During the Trump administration he served as chief of staff at the Department of Defense and as deputy assistant to the president, among other senior national security posts. He is a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America.