US House Republicans are planning to give a new panel the 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.
This is 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 the new speaker 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.
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 January 6 and Trump’s handling of classified and sensitive government documents.
New York Rep Jerry Nadler a top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee said in a statement that “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”.
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.
On Sunday, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry 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 January 6 and the push to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
But unlike the House’s January 6 probe, expect the minority party to willingly participate as Democrats don’t plan to boycott the panel and its hearings, like Republicans did with last year’s insurrection select committee, a senior Democratic aide told ABC News.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas