(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans plan to give a new panel sweeping authority to investigate active criminal investigations, a mandate that could set up new fights with the Justice Department and national security agencies over sensitive records and probes — including those involving former President Donald Trump.
That’s according to a measure the House is expected to take up this week as part of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s agreement with a band of some of his most conservative colleagues, who had delayed McCarthy winning the gavel.
An updated version of the resolution — which must first be approved by the House and which is part of the proposed rules that will govern the next two years of the chamber — includes new powers for a judiciary subcommittee that would look into what Republicans call the “weaponization of the federal government.”
The special panel would have authority to investigate how any part of the federal government collects and analyzes information on Americans, along with “ongoing criminal investigations” and civil liberties issues, according to the text of the resolution.
Under the resolution, the panel would also get access to highly classified information shared only with the House Intelligence Committee — some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, which are deliberately kept from nearly all of Congress.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in an interview with Fox News on Friday that the proposed subcommittee’s mandate was revised and broadened as part of McCarthy’s negotiations with his critics in the GOP conference.
“We got more resources, more specificity, more power to go after this recalcitrant Biden administration,” Roy said.
Democrats worry the GOP could use such broad new powers, which appear to be on a collision course with longstanding Justice Department policy not to disclose information about ongoing criminal investigations, to disrupt probes into Jan. 6 and Trump’s handling of classified and sensitive government documents.
“Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy claim to be investigating the weaponization of the federal government when, in fact, this new select committee is the weapon itself,” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
“It is specifically designed to inject extremist politics into our justice system and shield the MAGA movement from the legal consequences of their actions,” Nadler contended, calling the effort a “reckless partisan exercise fueled by conspiracy theories.”
A spokesman for expected Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the panel’s aims and Democrats’ criticism.
While it’s not clear who GOP leaders will place on the subcommittee, it could include members who aren’t currently on the Judiciary Committee, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
On Sunday, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., declined to recuse himself from serving on the panel, even though federal investigators seized his cell phone last summer as part of their work looking into Jan. 6 and the push to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“Why should I be limited? Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise,” Perry told ABC This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Roy said on Fox News that Republicans urged McCarthy and GOP leaders to give the panel “at least” as many resources as former Speaker Nancy Pelosi provided the Jan. 6 committee, which had dozens of staffers and spent millions of dollars.
But unlike the with the House’s Jan. 6 probe, expect the minority party to willingly participate: Democrats don’t plan to boycott the panel and its hearings, like Republicans did with the Jan. 6 select committee, a senior Democratic aide told ABC News.
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