House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday that the reported efforts to fire bureau employees for merely attending a Trump rally or otherwise peacefully protesting on Jan. 6, 2021, are not acceptable.
“We have been alerted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation appears to be attempting to terminate the employment of FBI employees who were engaged in protected First Amendment activity on January 6, 2021,” Jordan wrote in a letter to Wray from the Judiciary Committee.
“We have serious concerns that the FBI appears to be retaliating against employees for engaging in political speech disfavored by FBI leadership,” he added.
Jordan noted that the Department of Justice’s inspector general is looking into whether the FBI’s actions violate civil service laws.
In his speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House on Jan. 6, then-President Donald Trump called for the attendees to head to the U.S. Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” as a joint session of Congress met to vote on certifying the validity of the Electoral College tallies from all the states.
The 45th president said they were going to cheer on senators planning to make objections to the results in certain states.
“Cheer on our Senators… peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
— HARLAN Z. HILL 🇺🇸 (@Harlan) January 13, 2021
Jordan wrote that “several whistleblowers” have come forward to say they’re being punished for merely attending events on Jan. 6, which is a violation of their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
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The FBI has retaliated against these employees by pulling their security clearance. The justification given, according to Jordan, was a lack of allegiance to the United States.
“Because a security clearance is required for FBI positions, the suspension of the security clearance means the FBI has suspended these employees from work indefinitely. Such a suspension is likely to be the first step in terminating employment,” Jordan wrote.
The congressman highlighted one of the employees who was allegedly targeted who honorably served in the U.S. military for over 20 years and in the FBI for over a decade.
“We have been told that [redacted] and the other FBI employees did not enter the United States Capitol, have not been charged with any crime, and have not been contacted by law enforcement about their actions,” Jordan noted.
“The totality of the FBI’s actions as relayed to us present the appearance that the FBI may be retaliating against these employees for disfavored political speech.”
The Republican pointed to past acts by FBI leadership from which one could conclude the agency is biased against Trump, including spying on members of his campaign. FBI personnel altered a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
In December 2019, the presiding judge of the FISA court took the FBI to task for its conduct in a rare public order.
The public rebuke came a week after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a scathing report on the bureau’s conduct during the 2016 presidential election.
“The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” then-Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer wrote in her order.
In his letter to Wray, Jordan also referenced anti-Trump text messages sent by then-FBI agent Peter Strzok, chief of the counterespionage section, in August 2016, including one in which he wrote he could “smell the Trump support” at a southern Virginia Walmart.
Jordan requested that Wray arrange a briefing to address the FBI’s actions against employees who attended Trump’s rally or engaged in other First Amendment-protected activities on Jan. 6.