The top Democrat on the House Weaponization Subcommittee said there is a "difference" between "legitimate oversight and weaponization of Congress," slamming the GOP-created committee as one that will be used to "showcase conspiracy theories and advance an extreme agenda."
The subcommittee’s first hearing featured two panels of witnesses to present testimony and illustrate how the Department of Justice has allegedly compromised American civil liberties.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., opened the panel’s first hearing with a warning to Republicans on the committee.
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"Nobody disputed the important role of congressional oversight. I know firsthand how important it is to ask questions and demand answers of the federal government," Plaskett said. "Congressional oversight can serve to protect the integrity of our Republic."
"But there is a difference, my colleagues, between legitimate oversight and weaponization of Congress and our processes, particularly our committee work, as a political tool," she said.
Plaskett, who served as an impeachment manager in the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump, said she is "deeply concerned" that the Weaponization Subcommittee will be used "as a place to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories and advance an extreme agenda that risk undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy."
The first panel included testimony from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. The two senators have teamed together in high-profile investigations involving the FBI, the Department of Justice, Hunter Biden, Big Tech and more.
Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who has been critical of the government for activities that have allegedly undermined freedom of speech, joined Johnson and Grassley on the first panel.
The second panel is set to feature George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, who focused on censorship in the United States; former FBI agent Thomas Baker, who will speak to the need for an independent bureau; and former FBI agent Nicole Parker, who left the bureau after believing it had become weaponized for political purposes.
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Plaskett, ahead of witness testimony, blasted their experience, saying that the witnesses "would have us believe that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are part of a deep state cabal."
"The Department of Justice and the FBI do not always get it right—history is full of examples of these agencies getting it very, very wrong," she said. "But in our current climate, with domestic terrorism on the rise and hate speech normalized by national politicians, the Department of Justice and the FBI are doing their best to protect us from sliding into chaos."
Plaskett said that she and Democrats on the committee "will resist any attempt by this subcommittee to derail ongoing legitimate investigations into President Trump" and others within his orbit.
Plaskett said that Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Republicans "continually use the moniker of protecting free speech."
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Plaskett’s opening statement came after Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and the Weaponization Subcommittee, delivered his opening statement, detailing the dozens of FBI whistleblowers who have come to him and to congressional Republicans to report politicization within the bureau.