House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan said Thursday that he and fellow committee Republican Rep. Mike Johnson have called on FBI Director Christopher B. Wray to turn over information on a since-rescinded FBI memo that specified certain Catholics as “violent extremists.”
In a letter sent to Mr. Wray, the lawmakers said they have written to him “several times” in the past year about “startling” claims that the bureau is misusing domestic violent extremism resources for seemingly political reasons. The panel is continuing its probe of the FBI’s handling of DVE investigations.
“Since those letters, new information has become public about the FBI’s targeting of a set of Catholic Americans for their religious beliefs,” wrote Mr. Jordan, of Ohio, and Mr. Johnson, of Louisiana. “We, therefore, write to request additional information about this serious misuse of federal law-enforcement resources.”
The Republicans referenced a recent FBI whistleblower story last month out of the agency’s Richmond field office, where an official bureau document linked “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” (RMVEs) with a “radical-traditionalist Catholic” (RTC) ideology.
“In this document, the FBI purported to distinguish what it called ‘traditional Catholics’ from the disfavored RTC adherents, who the FBI characterized as embracing ‘anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology,’” they wrote. “The FBI even identified certain public policy issues — such as immigration and life issues — that it believed would ‘catalyz[e]’ RTC adherents.”
Mr. Jordan and Mr. Johnson said the FBI attempted to distinguish and classify U.S. Catholics based on their theological differences by speculating on the likeliness that political violence based on some form of bigotry will occur.
“FBI Richmond assesses RMVE interest in RTCs is likely to increase over the next 12 or 24 months in the run-up to the next general election cycle,” the memo stated.
The FBI acknowledged the bureau received the letter and would not comment further on it. However, the agency previously distanced itself from the memo, which was leaked last week.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI,” an FBI spokesperson said.
“Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document.”
The FBI insisted it is “committed to sound analytic tradecraft and to investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes while upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Agency personnel who wrote the document cited liberal sources, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Salon and The Atlantic, to support its assessment.
The SPLC “identifies the term ‘Christian identity’ as a hate group—a term that could arguably encompass millions of Americans with sincerely held religious beliefs,” lawmakers said, asserting that the organization also routinely “maligns” mainstream religious and conservative organizations who disagree with their positions.
“The fact that the FBI would blindly accept and regurgitate the SPLC’s spin is highly concerning and undercuts the FBI’s assertion that it is unbiased and politically neutral,” they said.
FBI leadership ordered the documents to be withdrawn following a public backlash after it leaked online through one of its suspended FBI agents, and blamed the local level field office for its creation, but Republican lawmakers want more information about the intelligence product and others related to it.
This includes all documents and communications referring or relating to “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist” and “radical-traditionalist Catholics” for the period of Jan. 20, 2021, to the present. That’s the date of President Biden’s inauguration.
They also called for all documents and communications referring to or relating to the basis for the Jan. 23, 2023 memo released by the Richmond field office.
Additionally, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Wray for a list of all FBI employees involved in drafting, reviewing, approving, or disseminating the memo and that “any effort to retaliate against whistleblowers” would not be tolerated.