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Jim Jordan ramps up investigation into FBI over domestic terrorism

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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In today's edition …  Tobi continues scrutinizing the big issues at the state level this election with a look at Oregon's gun measure … Poll Watch: Emily Guskin on the dividing line among Hispanic voters on abortionAnnie Linskey on Tim Ryan asking why Democrats ‘don’t smell blood’ and help him in Ohio …. What we're watching: Biden heads to Pennsylvania to raise money for Fetterman … but first …

On the Hill

House Republicans ramp up their investigation into the FBI over domestic terrorism

House Judiciary Committee Republicans are ramping up their investigation of the FBI even before they know whether they'll control the chamber in the next Congress.

Jill Sanborn, former executive assistant director of the National Security Branch at the FBI during the Biden administration, has offered to sit for a transcribed interview with House Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), to discuss the bureau's focus on “domestic violent extremism,” according to the letter obtained by The Early.

In the letter sent to Sanborn Tuesday, Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the ranking member of the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, wrote to Sanborn that they “welcome your appearance for a transcribed interview on December 2, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.” — a date they said was selected by her attorney.

The attorney for Sanborn, Carter Burwell, sent a response to Jordan Wednesday night but declined to detail what the letter said. The FBI declined to comment.

It is rare that current or former administration officials cooperate with investigations conducted by the minority party, particularly one that is expected to be hostile toward them. The party in the minority has no real way to compel witnesses since it lacks the cudgel of the subpoena.

In a brief interview, Jordan suggested Sanborn decided to cooperate in anticipation of a Republican House majority next year.

  • “Maybe she understands that we are going to in fact take back the majority, and knows that we're going to do our duty, our constitutional duty of oversight and we're going to do it in an aggressive way and so she's agreed to come in now,” Jordan said. (The Trump administration defied Congress' attempt at oversight at every turn.)
Jordan as top GOP investigator

Jordan was a leading defender of Trump during the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and both impeachments, saying the inquiries were witch hunts and political vendettas. He has stood behind Trump's false claims about the 2020 election.

But the Ohio Republican will hold a powerful perch if Republicans gain control of the House next year, and he is promising to investigate numerous aspects of the Biden administration.

 Jordan told The Early he's going to investigate the Justice Department “aggressively.”

“That's what's warranted, particularly when you think about the facts now — what we've seen from the Justice Department,” he said.

Focus on domestic terrorism

In January 2021, after the attack on the Capitol, the Justice Department established a new domestic terrorism unit. As our colleagues Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett explained at the time, DOJ said it was making the move because “the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists — those accused of planning or committing crimes in the name of domestic political goals — had more than doubled since the spring of 2020.” 

  • Sanborn testified before the Senate in 2021 that the FBI “has prioritized anti-government or anti-authority violent extremism,” noting “domestic violent extremists also plotted to conduct attacks due to personalized grievances, including anger at government responses to covid-19, immigration policies, and perceived election fraud.”

Jordan and other Republicans say whistleblowers have told them they were under pressure to classify cases as domestic violent extremism to pad the stats as part of the Biden administration's focus on domestic terrorism. Jordan alleges the whistleblowers have singled out Sanborn.

In the original letter sent to Sanborn in August seeking information, Jordan and Johnson wrote that FBI whistleblower disclosures “suggest” that FBI agents are under pressure to increase the number of domestic violent extremism cases “to satisfy their supervisors” to meet quotas set by the Biden administration.

“One whistleblower explained that because agents are not finding enough DVE cases, they are encouraged and incentivized to reclassify cases as DVE cases even though there is minimal, circumstantial evidence to support the reclassification,” the letter says.

Jordan has notified the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), of the upcoming interview and invited him or his staff to attend. Nadler's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Precursor to larger investigation?

When asked if he is laying the groundwork to impeach Attorney General Merrick Garland should Republicans win control of the House, Jordan said that would be up to Republicans on the Judiciary Committee — of which he is the top Republican — “in consultation with” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif), who would likely become speaker if the GOP takes control of the chamber.

“We are certainly open to whatever needs to be done to remedy the situation, change what's going on over there,” Jordan said.

Jordan volunteered that his committee members think Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “certainly warrants an inquiry into (the) impeachment question” because of the flow of migrants at the southern border. “So we'll look at that issue, too,” Jordan said.

Asked if he'd support Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the firebrand conservative whom Democrats kicked off committees for extremist positions and bigoted language, sitting on the Judiciary Committee, Jordan said she has spoken to him about it. She'd be a “good member,” he said, but added there is limited space with  “lots of other members who would also be great on the committee.”

“We'll see how it plays out,” he said.

In the states

Oregonians weigh restrictive gun measures

When Oregonians head to the polls next month, they will decide whether to adopt some of the most restrictive gun measures in the nation. Measure 114, also known as The Reduction of Gun Violence Act, has received nationwide attention — and support — from gun owners, lawmakers and heads of medical associations.

Under Measure 114, prospective gun owners must:

  • Complete a background check. Measure 114 attempts to close the Charleston Loophole by prohibiting the sale of firearms before a background check is completed.
  • Pass a firearm safety training class.
  • Purchase a $65 permit. The permit is valid for five years.

Measure 114 also prohibits the sale of large-capacity magazines. If voters approve the measure, Oregon will be one of nine states (and Washington, D.C.) to ban magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Rev. Dr. W.J. Mark Knutson, chair of Lift Every Voice Oregon, the faith-based coalition behind the campaign, said Oregonians are tired of living under the threat of gun violence. “I was with a mother of a 20-year-old who was shot a year and a half ago, and she said … if it had been 10 rounds, my son might have lived,” Knutson told Tobi.

The Oregonian's editorial board endorsed Measure 114 Wednesday, writing that the measure “is a response to the random mass shootings that have turned grocery stores, churches and schools into horrifying crime scenes … Every Oregonian holds individual rights but every Oregonian also holds societal obligations.” 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and several state representatives, including Courtney Neron, also back the measure.

But critics, including the National Rifle Association, call the measure unconstitutional.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the Second Amendment protects firearms that are ‘in common use’ for lawful purposes,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in statement. “Law-abiding Americans, including law enforcement personnel, use magazines that hold more than 10 rounds for self-defense, competition, recreational shooting, and hunting, such a ban is unconstitutional on its face.”

Voters are split

Fifty-one percent of Oregon voters said they would vote for Measure 114, according to a September poll of 600 likely voters by The Oregonian/Oregon Live.

“There’s no law that’s going to prevent every suicide or every mass shooting,” Paul Shively, a hunter and concealed carry license holder who supports Measure 114, told Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Lillian Mongeau Hughes. But, he said, “I’m just ready as a gun owner to say: ‘We need to step up to the plate and be part of the solution.’”

  • FYI: We reported Wednesday on a new study by the bipartisan group 97percent that found gun owners support several gun safety policies that would reduce gun violence despite stiff opposition from gun rights groups.

If the measure does pass, it will likely face legal challenges. Gun advocates have filed Second Amendment lawsuits in Washington, D.C. and several other states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, challenging restrictions on high-capacity magazines. And the Supreme Court has asked lower courts to review similar lawsuits in New Jersey and California.

Knutson acknowledged the possibility of a lawsuit, but said that it’s now or never.

“I had a senior in high school I was talking to. I said, ‘So what are your dreams for this year?’ He said, ‘Well, good grades, get [into] a great college and not get shot,’” Knutson recalled. “Now, why should that be any high-schooler’s top three?”

Poll Watch

Hispanic views on abortion closely connected to religion

From Post polling analyst Emily Guskin: In addition to being the U.S. electorate’s fastest growing racial or ethnic group, Hispanic voters also are not monolithic and their opinions on political issues differ by a wide range of factors.

On the issue of abortion and the midterm elections, religion stands out as a key dividing line according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll released last week, with opinions varying widely among Hispanic Catholics, evangelical Protestants and those with no religious affiliation.

  • In all, 68 percent of Hispanic voters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That includes a 70 percent majority of Catholic Hispanic voters and 87 percent of those who are atheist, agnostic or identify with no particular religion, compared with just over a quarter of evangelical Protestant Hispanic voters (27 percent). A 68 percent majority of evangelical Protestant Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Similarly, two-thirds of Hispanic voters overall oppose the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, including two-thirds of Catholic Hispanics and about 8 in 10 of those with no religion, compared with under half of evangelical Protestant Hispanics (44 percent). Over half of evangelical Protestant Hispanics (54 percent) support the court overturning Roe.

Religion and morality often go hand in hand, and it’s a dividing line here too. Overall, 37 percent of Hispanic voters say having an abortion is morally wrong, including 34 percent of Hispanic Catholics, but leaping to 71 percent of Hispanic evangelical Protestants. A majority of Hispanic voters overall (61 percent) including Catholic Hispanics say abortion is either morally acceptable or not a moral issue (65 percent). Just under a quarter of evangelical Protestant Hispanics (23 percent) say abortion is morally acceptable or not a moral issue.

There’s less of a religious divide in abortion’s importance to Hispanic voters’ choice for Congress: 67 percent of Catholic Hispanics say it is “very” or “extremely” important to their vote, as do 71 percent of evangelical Protestants and 73 percent of those with no religion.

What we're watching

President Biden is making another trip to Pennsylvania, his home state (or at least one of them), and will be in Pittsburgh today to tout infrastructure investments passed during his tenure. He'll later hold a fundraiser with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state's open Senate seat, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Mehmet Oz.

Lucky for Biden, Pennsylvania is a swing state. Other than Delaware, where Biden has a home and a beach house and where he goes nearly every weekend, Pennsylvania, where he was born, seems to be the president's favorite work-trip destination outside the Washington region. It was the state he visited most during his first year in office, according to NPR. And NBC News' Mike Memoli says this is Biden's 16th trip to Pennsylvania as president:

The Media

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