Will the New Church Committee Resemble the Original?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The battle for the Speaker’s gavel has concluded, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is now the Speaker of the House. It was a grueling week-long affair in which the embattled leader scrambled to gather enough votes to eke out a victory. In so doing, McCarthy had to give quite a few concessions to more conservative members of the Republican Party’s Freedom Caucus.

One of the stipulations to which McCarthy agreed was the establishment of a new Church committee that will investigate the FBI and intelligence agencies to ascertain how they have been weaponized and how they have exhibited political bias in how they carried out their operations. McCarthy acquiesced to demands to place Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) on the committee, who is known to be solid on these issues, unlike his more squishy colleagues.

During a conversation with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Massie stated that the committee’s work would not be a “show committee” and that the team would have “full jurisdiction” in its investigation. GOP lawmakers throughout the week had been pressuring McCarthy to form a committee to address the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.”

Members of the Freedom Caucus have been criticizing the FBI for its investigations of former President Donald Trump and its overuse of domestic surveillance. They seek to establish a new entity modeled after the Church Committee, which is named after former Idaho Sen. Frank Church, who led a similar inquiry into abuses perpetrated by the Bureau and various intelligence agencies in the 1970s.

Not surprisingly, House Democrats aren’t very happy about the prospect of having Republicans investigating the FBI and intelligence agencies. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) expressed concerns that the new Church committee could distract from the effort to pass bipartisan legislation to rein in these agencies.

“To compare these is a total misunderstanding of what the Church Committee did,” Khanna told The Intercept. “The question is, if we are going to focus on making sure the government isn’t engaged in surveillance, we should be engaged in passing the Internet Bill of Rights and engaged in passing legislation that will prevent that surveillance. I don’t want a committee that will start casting political aspersions on law enforcement agencies.”

The report also noted that there “will be little Democratic buy-in for the panel,” according to lawmakers the author interviewed.

“I don’t think there is any potential merit because it’s already tainted,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, (D-AZ). “The preface to this has been all the comments the Republican majority in the House have made relative to the FBI, relative to spying on Trump, relative to going through our mail and conspiracy theories. It’s already tainted. It has no value. It’s not a Church commission. It’s more of a McCarthy commission,” which was a reference to Sen. Joe McCarthy’s investigations into alleged communists in the government.

Democrats might be right on this one, even though they are exposing themselves as hypocrites by complaining about politically-motivated investigations. Indeed, none of these folks had a problem with the anti-Trump House Select J6 Committee, which was a brazenly political effort to damage former President Donald Trump.

But this does not mean that the appearance of politics in these investigations won’t pose a problem. If this committee focuses solely – or even mostly – on malfeasance that negatively affects Republicans and conservatives, the rest of the country will not view the probes as credible. Most people are aware of the reality that the FBI and intelligence agencies have long had a problem with corruption. Throughout history, their misconduct has harmed Americans on both sides of the political divide – and is likely doing so even today.

The issues surrounding the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago and the way it has approached the abortion issue certainly indicate that the Bureau is biased in favor of the left. This is likely the case with intelligence agencies as well. But the investigations must be geared toward rooting out all corruption regardless of political affiliation.

Additionally, it is also worth noting that even if these investigations reveal smoking guns, it won’t matter if there is no accountability. Indeed, if heads don’t roll, what exactly is the purpose of bothering to investigate in the first place? This is the concern I – and several others – have expressed. It’s not enough to simply expose wrongdoing; the people engaging in these actions must be punished. Unfortunately, we know this is not going to happen.

Nobody who is revealed to have been involved in questionable activity will pay the consequences for their actions. The FBI will not be abolished, nor will it even be scaled back. If history is any indication, this will result in nothing more than a few “harumphs” coming from Republican politicians and members of conservative media without any real substance. It will, however, be a boon to the GOP politically as it sets its eyes on the White House in 2024. Perhaps that is the only thing that might come of the new Church committee. Hopefully, I am wrong in my predictions.


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